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FA-51 /July 1982 

(Supersedes FA 51 /Jan 1981 which maybe used.) 




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Written by 

Herman M. Weisman 

. Jf, with the assistance of 

r t.^ r' /s^vei John Lynch and Lyle Goodrich 

'\Vvv)f*^°^'' Federal Emergency Management Agency 

U.S. Fire Administration 
Office of Fire Protection Management 

This manual was prepared under an interagency agreement 

between the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration 

and the United States Fire Administration. 





Arson is a human-made disaster. This crime causes more deaths than all natural disasters com- 
bined, and its economic toll in direct and indirect losses rises into billions of dollars. That is 
why reducing arson is a major Federal Emergency Management Agency goal, consistent with 
our efforts to reduce death, injury and destruction. 

To reduce arson, improvement needs to be made in the management of prevention and control 
programs, in the detection and investigation of the crime and in the elimination of economic 
and psychological incentives of arson. This manual will prove to be an invaluable guidebook to 
help prevent and control this tragic and wasteful manmade disaster. 

Louis O. Giuffridc 


Federal Emergency Management Agency 





I if?^ 


Volunteer firefighters can and do play an important role in the prevention and control of the 
crime of arson. The Federal Emergency Management Agency's U.S. Fire Administration has 
prepared this Arson Control Guide for Volunteer Fire Departments because in the Stonebridge I. 
National Workshop for \'olunteer Fire Senice, participants recommended that such a manual 
would be helpful to improve the awareness of the firefighter of the factors and problems in- 
volved in combating the crime. Part I of this manual provides guidance in developing arson 
task forces — one of the most effective and successful approaches in arson prevention and con- 
trol. The information in Part II helps the firefighter to be more alert to the symptoms of arson, 
so that he can recognize and safeguard evidence of the crime necessar)- to obtain a conviction! 
Here is a tool that can help. Let's put a stop to the arson menace! 


B.J. Thompson 


U.S. Fire Administration 

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Table of Contents 






What Is Arson? 1 


The Rural Arson Problem 3 

Arson in the Setting of the Volunteer System 3 

Personnel/ Agencies Involved in Arson Detection, 

Investigation and Prosecution 4 



Lack of Reliable Arson Data 7 

Inadequate Training 7 

Lack of Coordination Among Agencies 7 

Difficulty in Prosecuting Arson Cases 7 

Lack of Coordination Between Public and Private 

Arson Investigations 8 

Public Awareness of the Arson Problem 8 

Inadequate State Laws Concerning Arson 8 

Investigative Problems 9 


The Arson Task Force 11 

Policy-Setting Responsibilities 12 

Program Implementation Responsibilities 12 

Preventing and Controlling Arson 14 


Types of Arson Task Forces for Volunteer Systems 14 

Metropolitan Arson Task Forces 14 

Regional (Interjurisdictional) Arson Task Forces 14 

County Arson Task Forces 15 


Mechanics 17 

Agenda For the First Organizational Meeting 18 

Agenda for the Next Meeting 18 

Organizational Factors to be Considered in the Arson Task Force 18 

Arson Task Force Working Groups/Subcommittees 19 

Task Force Membership 19 

Key Operational Actions 20 

Arson Detection 20 

Public Education 21 

Data 21 

Liaison 21 

Summary 22 



Fire Reported 25 

Response 26 

Suppression 27 

Determination of Cause and Origin 27 

Securing the Fire Scene — Protection of Evidence 28 

Call Investigator 28 

Prepare Field Notes on Observations 28 

Assist Investigators 28 


Prepare Reports 29 

Provide Investigator With Reports 29 

Cooperate With the Prosecutor 29 

Appearing as a Witness 29 

Convict the Arsonist 29 

Exclusion of Accidental Causes 29 

Establishing Proof of Arson — "Corpus Delicti" 30 

What Should Be Done in Case of a Death in the Fire ^2 

Protection of the Fire Scene — Guarding Building and Property 

Involved in Fire 32 

Summary 33 


A. Glossary 35 

B. Suggested Model for Interlocal Agreement 

for County Arson Task Force 38 

C. Metropolitan Arson Task Force — The Montgomery 

County, Ohio Arson Task Force 40 

D. Regional Arson Task Force — The Regional Arson 

Investigation Program of the Central Virginia 

Planning District 43 

E. County Arson Task Force — New York's Suffolk County 

Arson Task Force 54 

F. Anti-Arson Materials Available from the Insurance Industry 57 

G. Materials Available from USFA Arson Resource Center 60 
H. Suggested Items for a Fire Investigation Kit 61 
I. FEMA Regional Offices 62 


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A shadowy figure slips quietly into the 
old, wood-framed, sheet-metal covered 
grain elevator, carrying a can of 
gasoline. Minutes later, he slips away. 
Soon the elevator headhouse lights up 
and acrid smoke fills the sky. In the 
distance can be heard the wail of a siren 
atop the firehouse. Volunteers start to 
roll out of warm beds. Lights come on 
aU over the area as the firefighters rush 
to the firehouse. 

No address is needed. Everyone in the 
community can see it is the elevator. 
Firefighters struggle to lay hose lines 
and hook up the pumpers in the near zero 
weather. The chief and two volunteers 
with hose on their shoulders begin to 
struggle up the wooden ladder toward the 
top of the headhouse. Suddenly the 
flooring above gives way and the 
headhouse machinery crashes down on 
the chief and the two firefighters. 

The community loses not only a major 
economic resource but, more tragically, 
its fire chief and two volunteers. Why? 
Because someone— a neighbor— became 
disgruntled over a decision of the co-op 
and resorted to arson for purposes of 

What Is Arson? 

The legal definition of arson varies from 
state to state. Most states define the 
act of arson as the malicious and willful 

burning of a dwelling; some state statutes 
require the building to be occupied at the 
time of the fire. Most people believe arson 
is a simple crime but it is not. There are 
many reasons and motives for the crime. 
The Federal Emergency Management 
Agency's U.S. Fire Administration has 
identified more than 20 motives for arson. 
The major motives are: 


of Arsons 


by Motive 









to set fires) 


Crime Concealment 


As the table suggests, arson is a complex 
crime and just as its motivations vary 
from community to community, so does 
its frequency. It has been the fastest 
growing serious crime in this country for 
the past ten years. Of approximately 
one million plus structural fires during 
the period 1977-1978, almost 165,000 
were reported as being incendiary or of a 
suspicious character. These translate 
into about 750-1,000 deaths, 15,000 
injuries and a conservative estimate of 
$1.3 billion in direct property losses and 
untold devastation and personal misery. 






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Arson Prevention and Control 
in tlie Fire Volunteer System 

The Rural Arson Problem 

While arson- for-profit in the large cities 
has gotten most of the headlines, arson is 
not solely an urban crime. Communities 
served by volunteer fire departments are 
also vulnerable. According to the 
National Volunteer Fire Council, more 
than 80% of our nation's fire depart- 
ments are staffed by volunteers and 42% 
of the nation's population lives in areas 
served by volunteers. 

When fire occurs on rural property, the 
impact of the damage on the community 
can be three to six times greater than 
when it occurs on city property. The 
smaller community has more limited 
housing and, perhaps, one commer- 
cial/industrial complex which comprises 
the entire economic base of the commu- 
nity. Alternative resources are not 
available; therefore, one arson fire may 
result in damages from which the com- 
munity may never be capable of recover- 

Arson is often portrayed as the most 
difficult crime to prove. Reasons usually 
given are that: 

• evidence of the crime is 
destroyed by fire, 

• witnesses must see the arsonist 
start the fire, and 

• investigations are ineffective. 

In truth, arson varies little from most 
crimes. Frequently, the real problem 
lies in the inadequate response of public 

agencies to the arson problem. 
Volunteer fire departments, fire investi- 
gation agencies, law enforcement agen- 
cies and prosecutors must cooperate to 
develop an effective response. 

In the instance of the elevator fire, 
alertness by the volunteer firefighter 
could lead to a successful prosecution of 
the arsonist. If the volunteers had noted 
heavy smoke, an unusually hot, stubborn 
fire or the odor of a petroleum-based 
product, this would assist the 
investigator. Prompt notification of the 
investigator while securing the fire scene 
and preserving evidence in its original 
location wiU enhance the success of the 
investigation, as will the noting of 
unusual circumstances and witnesses at 
the scene. Finally, the preparation of 
reports on the fire and cooperation 
extended to the prosecutor by the 
volunteer firefighters are the last 
building blocks of a successful case. 

Arson in the Setting of the 
Volunteer System 

Let us review the normal flow of events 
in the volunteer system at the 
occurrence of a fire incident. The run is 
triggered by a caU from a citizen to a 
fire department, a law enforcement 
agency, or some other form of emer- 
gency communications center. Upon re- 
ceipt of a call, a fire department is dis- 
patched to the scene of the fire by any 
of the following methods: 

1) by direct radio dispatch. 

2) by activation of a telephone 
paging system involving indi- 
vidual pagers for volunteers, 

Personnel /Agencies Involved in 
Arson Detection, Investigation 
and Prosecution 

3) by individually calling one or 
more members of the volunteer 
department who notify other 
available members, or 

4) by the siren sounding at the 
fi rehouse. 

Once the fire is extinguished or 
contained, the senior officer on the 
scene or some designated firefighter 
from the responding unit should make a 
preliminary determination of the cause 
of the blaze. If the fire appears to be of 
an incendiary nature, suspicious origin, 
or indeterminable cause, the responding 
unit notifies the fire marshal, a law 
enforcement agency or the state bureau 
of investigation to conduct a more 
detailed investigation. 

The fire marshal or designated 
investigator within the region either 
confirms or rules out ar\ incident of 
arson. Once the incident has been con- 
firmed and evidence collected, the ac- 
tual criminal investigation is conducted 
with the help and/or guidance of the 
prosecutor. If after the criminal investi- 
gation the case is determined to be 
arson, and if a suspect has been 
identified, a warrant for arrest is 
issued. The arrest is made and the case 
is turned over to the prosecutor who 
makes the final determination as to 
whether prosecution in the case is 
possible, depending on available evidence 
and conclusive results of analysis from a 
forensic laboratory. The feasibility of 
prosecution in the arson case often 
hinges upon the level of cooperation in 
the investigation provided by the 
volunteer firefighter. In fact, unless the 
firefighter details and reports the 
possibility of arson, there would be no 

A host of different agencies, organi- 
zations and individuals are involved in 
the detection, investigation and prose- 
cution of arson. Among these are: 

1) Fire Department . Generally it is 
the first agency to respond to 
the scene of the fire with the 
responsibility to protect life and 
property through fire control and 
suppression. Being first to arrive 
at the fire scene, firefighters 
have the primary responsibility 
for arson detection, protection 
of the fire scene, preservation of 
evidence, and notification of the 
fire investigation agency. 

2) Fire Marshal . This individual is 
generally a municipal, county or 
state employee charged with the 
responsibility of coordinating 
with all fire departments within 
his jurisdiction or region, inves- 
tigating arson and fires of suspi- 
cious or undetermined origin, and 
inspecting certain public 
buildings or facilities. 

3) State and Federal Wildland 
Organizations . In those areas 
where fires involve forests, 
grasslands and crops, participa- 
tion by State and Federal fire 
organizations is not only a must, 
but beneficial. Many volunteer 
fire departments take action on 
rural fires where Federal and 
State Foresters have primary 
jurisdiction for wildland fires. 
Wildland firefighting agencies 
can provide needed expertise not 
only in fighting the fires, in their 
investigation, but also in training 
for detection and investigation. 

4) Law Enforcement Agency— The 
Sheriff /Police Department . This 
agency is charged with 

responsibilities for enforcing 
state and local criminal laws. In 
cooperation with fire investi- 
gators, they assist in conducting 
the indepth investigation. 

5) State Bureau of Investigation . 
Some states have an agency 
which provides investigative 
assistance upon request from 
local law enforcement or fire 
officials and county fire mar- 
shals. This agency usually oper- 
ates a statewide crime labora- 
tory available to analyze fire 
scene evidence. 

6) Prosecutor. 

This person is a 
county level law 

state or 

enforcement official with the 

responsibility for preparing and 

prosecuting criminal cases. 
Often the individual has discre- 
tionary powers to accept or re- 
ject a case for prosecution. 
Prosecutors often assist in ob- 
taining administration or 
criminal search warrants, as weU 
as assisting in the actual investi- 

7) Magistrate/District Judge . 

These are state or county 
officials either elected or 
appointed by the chief district 
court judge within specified 
judicial districts. The magis- 
trate reviews the elements of a 
criminal offense and issues war- 
rants for search and arrest based 
on the legal sufficiency of evi- 
dence presented. 
























Problems the Volunteer 

System Faces to Prevent 

and Control Arson 

Lack of Reliable Arson Data 

Development of an effective arson 
reduction program by a community is 
dependent on knowing the extent and 
types of arson. In communities across 
the nation, there is an absence of 
reliable data on the incidence of arson. 
In the volunteer system, especially 
within unincorporated areas, there are 
normally no central points for the 
collection of arson statistics. Each fire 
department and fire protection district 
keeps its own records, with little 
uniformity and completeness of data 
among them. The state or county fire 
marshal's office also keeps fire 
investigation data. Here, classifications 
of fires can vary. Dollar loss estimates 
for arson are guesses at best. Moreover, 
not all arson fires are reported or even 
identified. The FEMA, USFA National 
Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS) 
and the FBI Uniform Crime Reports 
(UCR) are improving the data situation 
but, on the whole, accurate, uniform arson 
statistics are lacking at this time. 

Inadequate Training 

Firefighters are the first to arrive at the 
fire scene. Therefore, they have the 
primary responsibility for arson detec- 
tion, preservation of evidence and pro- 
tection of the fire scene until a fire 
investigator arrives. Limited training to 
perform these functions (true of both the 
volunteer and career systems) is a major 
factor responsible for the low arrest and 
conviction rates in arson cases. While a 
volunteer system does provide fire 
protection to the citizens it serves, the 

system has a built-in constraint when it 
comes to any training that requires a 
volunteer to spend time away from his 
regular job. Limited training for volun- 
teers, however, is not the sole factor 
deterring arson prevention and control. 
Arson is not exclusively a fire depart- 
ment problem, nor is it solely a law en- 
forcement problem. Rather arson is a 
community problem requiring action by a 
number of its agencies to prevent and 
control the crime. Unfortunately, mem- 
bers of the other agencies also lack the 
knowledge, skiUs and workforce to deal 
with the problem. Training programs 
must be developed that are available at 
times when the volunteer and others can 

Lack of Coordination Among 

A serious lack of coordination and 
cooperation among and between the 
various agencies involved in arson 
prevention and control often hampers the 
process. There are few jurisdictions 
which have formal procedures on how an 
arson case is to be handled. Often, no 
one knows whom to contact when an 
arson or suspicious fire occurs. Few 
jurisdictions have formal plans detailing 
duties, responsibilities and roles for the 
various agencies involved. 

Difficulty in Prosecuting Arson 

Prosecutors and their staffs, as well as 
members of the judiciary, are often not 
aware of the seriousness of the arson 

problem and its effect on the community 
in terms of life and property loss. Arson 
cases take much time, effort, and energy 
to process through the judicial system. 
They are erroneously viewed as being 
difficult to prosecute, lengthy to hear, 
and at times, shunted aside as "the 
insurance company's problem," Programs 
are needed to enable district attorneys 
and members of the judiciary to become 
better aware of the nature and extent of 
the arson problem and to involve them 
more effectively in procedures to deal 
with it. There is insufficient involve- 
ment in early investigations which hin- 
ders subsequent case prepsiration by 
district attorneys. Magistrates and 
judges may not be fully knowledgeable of 
technicalities involved in arson. Fur- 
thermore, in many cases of jury trial, 
jurors are given insufficient instruction 
and proper use of expert witnesses is not 

arson problem. Once a building burns, 
the problem is assumed to be that of the 
owner and the insurance company. The 
psychology of the public is to be 
sympathetic to anyone who can get a 
portion of the insurance premium back in 
the form of a claim. There seems to be 
little realization that such claims 
increase the insurance premiums the 
public pays. 

The cost of every fire is totally borne by 
the public— something too few people 
realize. Arson is viewed as a white 
collar crime against property rather than 
a vicious crime against people (about 800 
deaths yearly). Detailed and adequately 
funded public education and arson 
awareness programs are virtually non- 
existent. In areas where such programs 
have been developed, though, significant 
reduction in arson fires has been 

Lack of Coordination Between 
Public and Private Arson 
In vestigations 

Insurance companies may in the interest 
of speedy settlement of claims (and 
often as required by state law), pay the 
owner of the building or property for the 
loss before the conclusion of the official 
law enforcement investigation. Such 
speedy settlements may jeopardize the 
pending criminal action or any future 
civil action. While dual investigations 
may be required in many cases, a system 
of shared information could do much to 
improve the problem. Forty states now 
have an insurance immunity law to 
protect the insurance industry from suit 
when data are shared with public 
agencies investigating an incendiary 
fire. Cooperation and positive results 
are possible in the remaining states if 
similar legislation is passed. 

Public Awareness of the Arson 

The general public is unaware of and 
apathetic to the nature and extent of the 

Inadequate State Laws 
Concerning Arson 

States currently operate under an array 
of widely differing arson statutes, other 
laws relevant to arson, and case law. 
The definition of arson is determined by 
state statute; however, states even 
disagree on a definition of arson. For 
example, in Texas, arson has not been 
committed if the owner burns his or her 
own house, as long as the insurance 
reimbursement is not claimed. In North 
Carolina, if only the contents of a 
dwelling are burned and no portion of the 
structure is burned, then arson cannot be 
charged. In Colorado, because of strict 
environmental laws, setting a fire in a 
trash bin is a felony. 

The role of the State Fire Marshal, 
likewise, varies from state to state. In 
Connecticut, the law stipulates that a 
fire marshal must establish the cause of 
a fire and that a police officer cannot 
testify as to cause. In Texas and Illinois, 
state fire marshals are not allowed to 
testify in a civil fire insurance case. 
Two states do not have a state fire mar- 

shal, and in seven states, the fire mar- 
shal is also the insurance commissioner. 
Continuing efforts are underway to stan- 
dardize arson laws and to develop clear 
state statutes related to arson. 

Investigative Problems 

Arson is usually committed by stealth, 
and the nature and availability of 
physical evidence on the scene is not 
always understood by those investigating 
the fire. There is little, if any, detection 
or "sniffer" equipment for on-site 
preliminary screening analysis of physi- 
cal evidence at a fire scene, nor quali- 
fied personnel to use such equipment. 
With this constraint, there is often 
insufficient time to alert proper, 
qualified authorities of the occurrence of 
a suspected arson. The U.S. Supreme 
Court has ruled that once a blaze is 
extinguished and firefighters have left 
the premises, a warrant is required 
before the property may be re-entered 
and searched, if the owner or occupant 
objects to the re-entry. 

To secure such a warrant to investigate 
the cause of a fire, an official must show 
that either the warrant is necessary to 
fulfill the administrative function of 
determining the fire cause, or that 
probable cause exists that a crime has 
been committed. Though this Supreme 
Court ruling affects all fire situations, it 
is especially detrimental in the volunteer 
system, since early recognition and 
alerting of qualified personnel is an 
actual element in conducting an arson 
investigation. Early notification of fire 
investigation agencies is a must in 
instances of incendiary, suspicious 6md 
cause-undetermined fires. 

A frequent problem in small communities 
is that there is a reluctance to 
investigate or make trouble for one's 
neighbor. Such misplaced loyalty, where 
it exists, may one day lead to the death 
of an innocent victim in an arson fire. 
However, volunteer fire departments 
must develop and maintain a professional 
approach to the investigation of fires, as 
they have in fighting fires, if arson in 
their area of jurisdiction is to be 

How Can the Volunteer 

System Manage the 

Arson Problem? 

Though motivations for arson are the 
same, the rural and suburban arson 
problems differ from the urban in two 


the types of fires are dissimilar, 

2) available resources are signifi- 
cantly reduced. 

In the rural environment, arson fires 
frequently involve wildlands and crops, in 
addition to dwellings, barns, and other 
buildings. The resources of volunteer 
fire departments serving rural areas 
usually are limited. In many volunteer 
systems, there is confusion as to whether 
the volunteer department has any role in 
arson prevention and control. 

In the areas of arson detection and inves- 
tigation particularly, some volunteers 
question their role. Many ask: 

• What role should the volunteer 
fire department play in combat- 
ing arson? 

• What is the volunteer's role in 
detection and investigation func- 

• What role do volunteer depart- 
ments play in arson prevention? 

• How can volunteers enhance 
their capabilities to fulfill these 

• How can rural and suburban 
communities served by a volun- 
teer system combat arson? 

Many states, large urban areas, counties 
and even rural areas served by a 
volunteer system have found an approach 
which is proving successful in reducing 
their arsons. That approach is the arson 
task force . 

The Arson Task Force 

The arson task force is a management 
system that develops and implements 
strategies to control and prevent arson. 
Its concept is simple: mobilize public 
and private resources; coordinate 
responsibilities; and integrate efforts of 
agencies, groups, and persons who are 
involved or should be involved into an 
organized strategy. The arson task force 
operates as a coalition. As such, it 
requires coordination and integration of 
aU community resources. Among the 
many agencies to be included in the task 
force are: 

Office of the Mayor/Town Manager, 
City Council/County Supervisors/ 

Selectmen/ Assemblymen, 
Fire Chief/Fire Marshal, 
Police Chief/Sheriff, 
State/Federal Forestry Service, 
Office of the Prosecutor, 
Office of Buildings/Codes/Records, 
Insurance Industry, 
Civic Organizations, 
Chamber of Commerce, 
Community Groups, 
Media, and 
Prominent Citizens. 

The chairperson of the task force must 
be a strong coalition leader. He or she 
serves as the catalyst for getting the 
program oriented, obtaining commit- 

merits of cooperation and generating 
enthusiasm and momentum on a contin- 
uing basis. In many communities, the 
fire chief has been the initiating agent of 
the arson task force. With the active 
support and participation by the execu- 
tive and legislative branches of the 
community, the arson task force's 
programs can be successful in the 
prevention and control of arson. 

The arson task force has two major areas 
of responsibility. The first is policy 
setting, the second is program imple- 

Policy -Setting Responsibilities 

1) Defining the community's arson 
situation by: 

• identifying the problem, 

• identifying the contributing 

• identifying and evaluating 
existing programs, if any, 

• defining responsibilities and 
jurisdictions for inves- 
tigation of suspected incen- 
diary fires, 

• establishing hotline pro- 

• establishing public aware- 
ness and media campaigns, 

• establishing liaison with the 
legislators to promote legis- 
lation which will provide 
disincentives to arsonists. 

4) Approving and implementing 
programs such as: 

• identifying sources of fund- 
ing support, 

• obtaining commitments 
from member agencies, 

• identifying responsible agen- 
cy for specific programs, 

• identifying available resour- 

2) Setting goals and objectives such 

• classifying the magnitude of 
the arson problem, 

• promoting public awareness, 

• implementing programs. 

5) Conducting objectives toward 
specific goals: 

• evaluating program effec- 
tiveness and resource utili- 

• evaluating program objec- 
tives, and 

• increasing ratio of convic- 
tions for total number of 
arson incidents. 

3) Setting policies/establishing pri- 
orities and selecting programs 
such as: 

• examining, as necessary, 
program alternatives. 

Program Implementation 

1) Forming an arson control unit. 

• establishing training for all 
line firefighters, fire offi- 
cers and police officers. 

2) Setting up mechanisms for arson 
data analysis and an arson 
information management system. 

3) Increasing public awareness of 
arson problem, 

4) Instituting hotline/tipster pro- 

5) Obtaining community partici- 

6) Establishing training in detec- 
tion, investigation and prose- 
cution, and 

7) Instituting a juvenile firesetters 
counseling program. 












Fire Incident Reporting 

Arson Information 
Management System 

Public Education 



Juvenile Firesetters 
Counseling Program 

Economic Factors 





Detection and Investigation 


Preventing and Controlling Arson 

The U.S. Fire Administration Report to 
Congress, Arson: The Federal Role in 
Arson Prevention and Control recom- 
mended that arson be attacked on four 

o management, 

o economics, 

o behavior, and 

o investigation and prosecution. 

The first three areas are concerned with 
prevention and the fourth with control. 
The concerns of the arson task force 
effectively lend themselves to such an 
organizational approach as can be seen in 
Figure 1. 

Functionally, the successful arson task 
force gives equal emphasis to prevention 
as well as to control efforts. Experience 
has shown that regardless of how 
effective control efforts are, without the 
prevention programs, the arson losses of 
the community will continue to rise. 
Each community must establish its own 
balance between these functional areas 
to be effective against its arson problem. 

Types of Arson Task Forces for 
Volunteer Systems 

Communities are unique. No hard and 
fast rule can fit their individual 
situations. But certain task force ap- 
proaches and techniques can and do apply 
to the various types of communities 
served by the volunteer system. Depend- 
ing on geographical and political consid- 
erations, arson task forces for the volun- 
teer system can be organized in several 
different ways: 

• on a metropolitan area basis, 

• on a regional basis, or 

• on a county basis. 

Metropolitan Arson Task Forces - 

Participating in a metropolitan arson 
task force is an extremely useful 
approach for those rural and suburban 
communities which border on large 
cities. Pooling resources with a large 
community offers such advantages as: 

• more effective training in 
detection and investigation of 


• greater indepth investigation, 

• more experienced personnel 
involved in detection, inves- 
tigation and prosecution, 

• centralized, systematic data 
collection and analysis, 

• metropolitan facilities and re- 
sources, such as: 

— forensic laboratory, 

— media involvement in public 
education, and 

— hotline/tip programs, and 

• maximization of resources. 

Representatives of rural and suburban 
communities participate not only in 
operation tasks but also in policy by 
serving on committees concerned with 
specific issues and programs. 

An example of a metropolitan arson task 
force is the Dayton-Montgomery County, 
Ohio arson task force. (See description 
in Appendix.) 

Repional (Interjurisdictional) Arson 
Task Forces - 

The interjurisdictional arson 
task force has developed out of 
recognition that arson does not respect 
political boundaries. Similar to the 
metropolitan arson task force, this 
approach pools the resources of the 
communities involved to achieve the 
benefits that cooperative, integrated 
efforts provide. Interjurisdictional arson 
task forces are composed of members 

from all participating communities and 
represent law enforcement agencies, fire 
departments, local elected officials, the 
insurance industry and the state fire 
marshal's office. An example of an 
interjurisdictional task force is the 
Regional Arson Investigation Squad of 
the Central Virginia Planning District. 
(See description in Appendix.) 

County Arson Task Forces ~ The county 
arson task force pools resources and 
coordinates arson prevention and control 
efforts of aU jurisdictions within a 
county. This approach lends itself to 
using the existing government structure 
to combat arson. The advantage is that 
a working organizational structure can 
serve as the nucleus of the arson task 
force. The usual entities around which 
the county task force is formed are: 

• County Fire Coordinator, 

• County or State Fire Marshal, 

• County Prosecutor, 

• County Sheriff/local Police 

• County Chamber of Commerce, 

• County Insurance Industry. 

Investigations are conducted interjuris- 
dictionally with local resources coor- 
dinated on the county level. Participat- 
ing county task force communities nor- 

mally sign agreements to legalize availa- 
bility of their investigators to other 
communities. Thus, all participating 
communities, regardless of investigation 
resources, have access to greater resour- 

A county arson task force enlarges and 
enhances capabilities for more effective 
arson prevention and control measures 
than would be possible for individual 
communities acting separately. Among 
possible strategies are: 

development of an arson infor- 
mation management system to 
collect and analyze data, 

allocation of resources on a more 
effective level, 

arson public awareness programs 
via the media, 

arson public education programs; 
speakers bureau, 

firesetters counseling programs, 

interaction with Federal, state, 
and private resources, 

hotline/tipster programs, and 

training of fire investigators and 

An example of a suburban county arson 
task force is that of Suffolk County, New 
York. (See description in Appendix.) 



How Does a Jurisdiction 

Deveiop an 
Arson Tasl^ Force? 

Most task forces have used existing 
resources and receive no additional 
public funds. Professional and clerical 
services were sometimes donated, often 
by the insurance industry. Usually tasl< 
force assignments can be handled by 
existing personnel within the scope of 
their duties. Most communities have the 
capability to develop their own task 
force program. Usually, the only thing 
lacking to get them going is a 
catalyst/stimulator— a person or group 
with sufficient interest and leadership 
ability, or a rash of devastating arsons 
which precipitate attention and public 
demand for action. 


Here are some suggested steps in 
starting an arson task force: 

1. You, as a concerned member of your 
community, gather a small group 
that is representative of the force 
that should participate in the arson 
task force. (This group will consti- 
tute the "organizing committee." 
These individuals will do the initial 
work to get the arson task force 

2. Before this meeting, familiarize 
yourself with the arson task force 
concept. Obtain background infor- 
mation on arson task forces and 
have material on hand for discussion 
and examination. Helpful material 

• USFA, Report to Congress, 
Arson: The Federal Role in Ar- 
son Prevention and Control, 

USFA, Arson Task Force Assist- 
ance Program , 

USFA, Arson Resource Direc- 

Issues of Arson Resource Ex- 

change Bulletin , 

• LEAA, Program Models: Arson/ 
Prevention and Control 

• AUstate Insurance, Put the Heat 
on the Arsonists , 

• Hartford Insurance, Arson News 
Media Guidebook , and 

• Insurance Committee for Arson 
Control, Target: Arson . 

Prepare yourself to define and 
discuss your community's arson 

Prepare yourself to define and 

discuss goals and objectives of an 

arson task force effort for your 

Develop issue statements defining 
purpose, mission, and scope of the 
task force. 

Evolve, through discussion, a list of 
the forces that are to be brought 
together and assign responsibilities 
for contacting each. Send a letter 
to each invited participant at least 
two weeks before the meeting. 

Elect or appoint a temporary 
chairperson and recording secretary 


to organize and call the first 
organizational meeting. 

8. Develop an agenda for the first 
organizational meeting. 

9. Circulate issue papers in the 
community in advance of the first 

10. Recommend that the temporary 
chairperson and other "organizing 
committee" members talk with all 
invited participants (or as many as 
possible) before the meeting takes 
place so each is clear about the 
purpose and is motivated to attend. 

11. Establish a follow-up contact pro- 
gram to remind invited participants 
of the pending meeting a few days 

Agenda for the First 
Organizational Meeting 

1. Discussion of community's arson 

2. Discussion of arson task force as a 
community strategy. 

3. Distribution of informational ma- 
terial on arson task forces. 

4. Development of a consensus on 
purpose, goals and objectives of the 
task force. Set these down on paper 
and distribute for refinement and 

5. Selection of temporary officers. 

6. Development and commitments for 
a plan for action which includes: 

• announcement to the public of 
the establishment of the arson 
task force, 

• stimulation of interest of repre- 
sentative groups and media, 

• building community support for 
the task force, and 

• appointment of committees and 
action subcommittees or work 

7. Identification of responsibilities of 
committees and subcommittees. 

8. Development of timetable for ac- 

Agenda for the Next Meeting 

1. Reports by committees and sub- 

2. Evaluation of action results thus far, 
including: turnout, media coverage 
and support/interest. 

3. Selection/appointment of permanent 
task force: chairperson/leader and 
operational officers. 

4. Discussion and proposals for further/ 
new action 

5. Plans for involving new mem- 
ber/missing task force elements. 

Organizational Factors to be 
Considered in the Arson Task 

The elements in the organization chart 
of Figure 1 can serve as a guide for 
matching persons, organizations, and 
interested groups with the concerns and 
operations of the arson task force. If at 
all possible, someone known to a 
prospect should make the initial con- 
tact. Formal invitations should be made 
by the task force chairperson/leader. 
Ideally, the chairperson is one who com- 
mands the respect of the community; he 
could be the mayor/chairperson of the 
county board of supervisors, district at- 
torney, district fire chief or sheriff/po- 
lice chief. The choice of the sponsoring 
agency and the task force leader has im- 
portant implications for the success of 
the force, especially in its effectiveness 

in obtaining support from the entire 
community. In this respect, the follow- 
ing factors are important: 

• the ability and willingness of the 
candidate-sponsoring agency to 
mai<e the commitment of re- 
sources required, 

• the capability of that agency to 
get cooperation and action from 
all sectors of the community and 
the jurisdictions, and 

• the acceptance by the rest of the 
community of that agency's 

Generally, the agency which meets the 
criteria of resources, authority and 
neutrality is a jurisdiction's chief admini- 
strative officer or city council/board of 
supervisors. Such a sponsorship and 
leadership also avoids the potential 
interagency "turf" problem. The task 
force is a coalition of a community's 
resources to bring focus on the arson 
problem. The task force chairperson, to 
help effect policy and implement policy 
objectives, will divide responsibilities 
among several groupings or committees. 

Arson Task Force Working 

To share administrative responsibilities 
and to take advantage of the special 
backgrounds and experience of task force 
members, the chairperson may appoint 
special working groups/subcommittees 
(which are usually identified in the task 
force charter) to handle programs and 
activities. These include: 

• Membership : To solicit and 
encourage membership in the 
task force and actively work 
toward greater attendance at 
meetings and maintain an even 
mix of members among fire, law 
enforcement, prosecution, judi- 
ciary, insurance and other con- 
cerned groups. 

• Finance: To manage the finan- 
cial requirements of the task 
force. This committee wiU as- 
sess needs and devise means for 
obtaining funds to meet those 

• Public Awareness/Education ; To 
promote public understanding 
and involvement in arson pre- 
vention and control. 

• Legislation ; To foster and pro- 
mote desirable legislation bear- 
ing on the problem of arson. 

• Education and Training ; To en- 
courage education and training 
of professionals concerned in the 
areas of detection, investigation 
and prosecution. 

• Research and Data: To collect 
data on the incidence, extent and 
types of arson for analysis 
toward development of programs 
to combat the crime and to 
measure progress. 

• Liaison : To serve as a liaison 
mechanism between the task 
force, other state and local 
jurisdictions and the Federal 

• Investigation and Prosecution ; 
To promote better understanding 
of the interrelationship of these 
two activities, improve cooper- 
ation and thereby enhance the 
procedures of each of these 

Task Force Membership 

The membership and organization of task 
forces vary from community to 
community. While there are no pre- 
scribed standards for membership be- 
cause of the individuality of communities 
and jurisdictions, participation by certain 
agencies provides advantages. It is, 
therefore, important to emphasize that 
the following should be included; 

• County or Local Government 
Executive Office - to provide 
authority and influence. 

• Fire Department - to coordinate 
fire department efforts and to 
provide valuable information on 
the technical determination of 
fire cause and origin. 

• Police/Sheriff - to provide as- 
sistance in the technical aspects 
of criminal investigations of 
arson and related crimes. 

• Prosecutor's Office - to review 
and coordinate the prosecution 
of arson cases and to ensure 
adequate involvement at the 
earliest stages of case inves- 

• Insurance Industry - to assist in 
obtaining both financial support 
and use of industry programs to 
complement the community's 
anti-arson efforts. 

• Building Department - to help 
monitor code violations. 

• Board of Education - to help 
develop a juvenile firesetters 
counseling program. 

• Federal and State Agencies - to 
provide assistance in prevention 
and control efforts, (i.e., FBI, 
ATF, state police, State/Federal 
Forest Service). 

• Community, business, service, 
media, school groups - to 
participate in and to establish 
programs to control and prevent 

Community task forces may be composed 
of representatives of all, several, or only 
four or five of the above agencies. At a 
minimum, task force membership should 
include representatives from the fire 
department, police/sheriff, as well as the 

prosecutor's office, town mayor/county 
supervisor and the insurance industry. 
Depending on the nature of the 
jurisdiction, participation by building and 
housing departments, the banking indus- 
try, community groups, youth agencies, 
and related human service organizations 
is also advised. Representatives of each 
agency should have the authority to 
commit their agency to contributing 
resources and implementing policies 
identified by the task force. 

A written record of all interagency 
agreements affecting the operation of 
the task force is recommended. Periodic 
reports to the community or to the 
sponsoring organization are a valuable 
management tool. During the initial 
planning phase, frequent meetings of the 
policy component of the task force are 
necessary in order to plan, develop, and 
organize the task force, as well as to 
resolve jurisdictional issues and to 
develop training plans. After the task 
force is implemented, regularly sched- 
uled meetings on a monthly or bimonthly 
basis are adequate for monitoring pur- 
poses, for continuing the development of 
longer-time prevention strategies and for 
continuing interagency cooperation. 
Special issues and contingencies may 
require additional meetings. 

Key Operational Actions 

Among the initial areas for task force 
operational action are the following: 

Arson Detection -One of the most vital 
areas of concern for volunteers is to 
receive training in arson detection. 
Primary emphasis must be placed on 
making training available when the 
volunteer is available. The task force 
training committee may not need to 
develop its own training courses. The 
committee should explore available 
training from the state fire training 
director, the state fire marshal, the 
state chapter of the International 
Association of Arson Investigators 
(lAAI), the local, or closest community 

college with a fire science training 
program. The National Fire Academy 
has made available to every state 
complete training packages for two 
courses: "Arson Detection" and "Fire 
and Arson Investigation." States— Min- 
nesota for example— are beginning to 
mandate arson training for all law en- 
forcement and fire personnel. In Min- 
nesota, one- half of the salaries of public 
safety personnel, police and fire, are 
reimbursed by the state for attending 
such training. Volunteers attending 
classes within their own jurisdiction are 
reimbursed at $35 per day. The training 
committee should also explore the 
possibility of training through field and 
regional offices of the FBI and the 
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms 
(ATF) by contacting the respective field 
office training coordinator. 

Public Education - The need to inform 
and involve the general public in arson 
prevention and control activities is 
essential to the success of the task 
force. Many task forces develop a 
program slogan, such as "Burn an 
Arsonist" or "Arrest Arson" as weU as a 
symbol, and use them in their public 
education campaigns. Some ideas for 
getting public attention and involvement 

• News Media 

— realize that fire is news, 
arson is "bigger" news 

— publicize all arson prevention 
and control activities of the 
task force as news events 

• Advertising (using the slogan and 

— create signs, billboards, pos- 
ters, buttons, etc. 

— insert newspaper ads 

— include throwaway flyers at 
grocery stores, in bank 
statements, in utility biUs, 

• School, church, and service club 

— visit local schools with 
programs for both teachers 
and students 

— involve groups like boy 
scouts, girl scouts, athletic 
programs, Kiwanis, Lions, 

— use public service announce- 
ments (PSA) on local radio 
and TV stations 

• Speakers Bureau 

— provide speakers for local 

Datg^- Data collection is useful in 
defining the specifics of a community's 
arson problem. At the local level, 
manual analysis can begin to show pat- 
terns and guide a community's response 
to its problem. More sophisticated anal- 
yses of local data should be available 
from the state through the state fire 
marshal's office. 

Liaison - Outside of its own jurisdiction, 
a number of helpful resources are 
available to the volunteer system arson 
task force. Liaison should be established 
with the following for the type of 
support indicated. 

• The state fire marshal's office 
can offer assistance and guid- 
ance both in organizing the task 
force and in specific operational 
problems, as well as providing 
assistance and guidance in inves- 
tigation and forensic laboratory 
analysis of arson evidence. 

• The state fire training director 
can offer training assistance, 

• The state public safety/law 
enforcement department can 
offer assistance and guidance in 
investigation problems and crime 
forensic laboratory analysis. 

• The State forester can provide 
expertise in fire investigation 
and training in forest and wild- 
land fires. 

• The state attorney general's 
office can offer assistance and 
guidance in organizational and 
operational matters related to 
the task force. 

• The state insurance commis- 
sioner can offer guidance in 
insurance matters related to 

• The insurance industry can offer 
cooperation and support in 
organizing and operating the task 

• The Federal Emergency Manage- 
ment Agency's U.S. Fire Ad- 
ministration through the 
LEAA/USFA Arson Task Forces 
Assistance Program can offer 
technical assistance in organizing 
and operating the task force. 

• The Federal Emergency Manage- 
ment Agency can provide useful 
information, manuals and 
bulletins on arson problems. 

• The Federal Emergency Manage- 
ment Agency's National Emergen- 
cy Training Center provides fire 
investigation and arson detection 
"training the trainers" courses. 

• The fire representatives in the 
ten regional offices of the 
Federal Emergency Management 
Agency C£in provide information 

on technical assistance. (A list- 
ing of the regional offices ap- 
pears in Appendix I.) 


The arson task force has had a national 
experience as a proven weapon in the 
fight against arson. The arson task force 
is a management system that develops 
and implements strategies to control and 
prevent arson. Its approach is simple: 
mobilize public and private resources; 
coordinate responsibilities and integrate 
efforts of agencies, groups and persons 
who are or should be involved into an 
organized strikeforce. This strategy has 
worked successfully on statewide levels, 
in large urban communities and in rural 
areas serviced by the volunteer fire 
department system. 

Even smgill volunteer fire departments 
can, at a minimum, adapt some of the 
anti-arson measures of the arson task 
force approach to meet their individual 
situations. Always contact the state fire 
marshal's office or the local county fire 
coordinator for possible assistance. 
These offices may know of other local 
groups interested in arson and may be 
able to provide direct technical assist- 
ance to help your efforts. Organization 
problems are simpler if the county task 
force approach can be used. 

There is benefit to be gained from using 
the resources of an existing county 
government structure to mobilize and 
coordinate efforts of the various groups 
and agencies that should work together 
to fight and reduce arson. 






m ■'?-. 









The primary responsibilities of volunteer 
firefighters, when arriving at a fire, are 
the rescue of endangered people and the 
extinguishment of the fire. They also 
have the responsibility to assist in 
determining whether a fire was deliber- 
ately or accidentally caused. Determi- 
nation of the cause usually comes after 
the fire has been extinguished. 

The volunteer firefighter plays a stra- 
tegic role in arson detection and investi- 
gation. First-in firefighters are the 
investigator's best source of information 
concerning the initial circumstances, at 
the fire scene, the fire's exact location, 
its spread and intensity. Firefighters 
who have received training in fire detec- 
tion procedures especially can provide a 
useful service, because they know what 
details are important in the determi- 
nation of fire cause. 

The investigation usually does not begin 
until after the fire has been controlled 
and overhaul has begun. A fire that 
looks suspicious or one whose cause is 
difficult to determine requires highly 
trained and experienced personnel. 
Trained investigators usually don't come 
until requested by the fire chief or 
officer-in-charge. If investigators are 
from a nearby, large city department, 
state or county jurisdiction, they 
probably will be unfamiliar with the "lay 
of the land," and the volunteer has the 
responsibility to help. 

The volunteer knows his community, its 
people, its businesses and most impor- 
tant, knows the problems that may exist 
in the area. The investigator from out- 
side the community may do weU at the 

fire scene and in the determination of 
the cause of the fire, but in order for 
him to proceed to fix the responsibility 
for the fire, it is vital that the 
investigator has the fuU cooperation of 
the local fire department. The volunteer 
should never step aside because the so- 
called "expert" has come onto the 
scene. He needs the volunteer's help. 
The volunteer's interest should be strong 
and continuing in the investigation which 
affects him and his community. 

The responsibilities of the volunteer 
firefighter in arson detection and fire 
investigation may be grouped according 
to the functional activity being 
performed. Figure 2 charts the function 
categories and duties in the volunteer's 
role in arson detection and investi- 
gation. The explanation that follows is 
in the sequence of the flow chart Figure 

Fire Reported 

Dispatchers (police or fire) must record 
the means by which the alarm was 
received, as weU as the time and date. 
If possible, they should obtain the 
identity of the person or persons 
reporting the fire. If descriptive state- 
ments about the fire are made, these 
should be recorded for later use by inves- 

The dispatcher should record, also on a 
routine basis, data on the weather 
conditions (whether it is rainy-clear; hot- 
cold; the wind direction; the humidity). 
Such information will prove invaluable in 
identifying causes of fire growth, spread 

and other characteristics related to 
environmental factors. 


Time of arrival of the fire department on 
the scene must be recorded imme- 

diately. Where two-way communications 
exist, dispatchers may make a record of 
time of a reported arrival. Firefighters 
responding to the fire should note and 
later record any unusual occurrence that 
impede their response. To be noted are 
such incidents as man-made or unusual 





Secure Scene 





Prepare Field 

Notes on 





type barriers because they are often 
related to arson fires. The blocking or 
disablement of hydrants or water supply 
sources on the scene must also be noted. 

In responding to the fire, the volunteer, 
whether on fire apparatus or in a private 
car, should note any vehicle being driven 
in the immediate area. Given the speed 
of fire spread when accelerants have 
been used and the speed of present 
communication technology by which a 
fire is reported, it is quite feasible that 
the volunteer responding may pass the 
firesetter going in the opposite direc- 
tion. When suspicious vehicles are seen, 
the information should be passed 
immediately to the fire chief so that the 
appropriate law enforcement agencies 
may be notified. 

As you, the volunteer, approach the fire 
scene, pay attention to and note smoke 
conditions and its color. (The color of 
the smoke may give a general idea of the 
type of material burning.) Note also 
where fire is showing and the color and 
type of flame. Information on smoke and 
flame observations of the firefighter can 
be of invaluable assistance to the fire 

As you arrive at the fire scene, observe 
the dress and appearance of the people 
at the fire. Any unusual dress or be- 
havior among the onlookers should be 
noted and that information passed to the 
investigators. For example, if a fire 
occurs at 3:00 a.m., you would not 
expect to find people fleeing while fully 


As you begin suppressing the fire, you 
should note the need or lack of need for 
forcible entry. This factor may prove 
crucial in establishing access of the 
arsonist to the building. Any blocking or 
obstruction of normal means of entrance 
also should be noted. Arsonists frequent- 
ly use such latter met4iods to delay dis- 
covery and suppression of the fire. 

When you enter the structure, be on the 
lookout for any unusual conditions such 
as distinctly separate fires, unusual odors 
or unusual flame colors. Note, also the 
degree of destruction before the start of 
suppression activities. 

Another factor to be watchful of is 
whether the sprinkler, fire alarm and 
burglar alarms are operating. 

As you open the water stream upon the 
fire, note and later record any unusual 
reaction. A violent spurting of flames 
and sparks, and an increase in intensity 
and spread of fire can indicate that the 
fire was deliberately set and an 
accelerant is present. 

Determination of Cause 
and Origin 

After the fire is suppressed and before 
overhaul and salvage operations are 
started, preliminary investigation of 
cause and origin of the fire should 
begin. At this time, the designated 
officer-in-charge examines the fire 
scene, to (1) attempt to determine the 
point of fire origin; and (2) to determine 
the cause factor resulting in the fire. 
Care must be taken to preserve vital 
evidence at its original location and in 
its original condition. 

During this operation, minimum 
manpower is needed within the structure 
and nonessential personnel would do 
better at other chores outside. The 
officer-in-charge should be careful to 
note and record any unusual circum- 
stances, such as holes in waUs and ceil- 
ings, fire doors rendered inoperative, 
excessive destruction based on the fire 
load, and inoperative fire protective 
systems, since these factors could 
indicate arson. The officer-in-charge or 
investigator should also look for indi- 
cations or remains of trailers/streamers 
(combustible material used to create 
trails for spreading the fire). 

Particular attention should be given to 
the condition, presence or absence of the 
normal contents of the structure. Fre- 
quently, firesetters wiU remove pets, 
valuables, and irreplaceable items (i.e., 
diplomas, photographs, etc.) to prevent 
their destruction. Absence of such nor- 
mal items could indicate that the fire 
was set by the owner. 

The point of origin of the fire can reveal 
the presence of a "plant" (a device or 
apparatus used to set a fire, e.g., the 
wastebasket set on fire which contains a 
plastic bottle of flammable liquid). 
Intense destruction of material or the 
structure should be noted. In examining 
the point of origin, the fire officer 
should look carefully for remains of the 
materials involved in the cause of fire, 
such as: 

• candles, 

• matches, 

• flammable liquid containers, 

• chemicads, 

• electrical equipment, or 

• timing devices. 

It is extremely important that any 
evidence discovered during the cause and 
origin examination not be disturbed. 
Evidence should not be picked up for 
closer examination nor for any other 
reason. The fire officer conducting the 
cause and origin examination should 
record precisely the presence, location, 
description and condition of the evi- 
dence. Evidence handled at this point in 
time by an unqualified investigator 
would, in aU probability, be ruled inad- 
missible by the courts. 

Securing the Fire 

Scene— Protection of Evidence 

Once it is determined that an indepth 
investigation of the fire is required. 

immediate steps should be taken to 
secure the fire scene. AU unnecessary 
personnel must be required to leave and 
remain outside of the fire building. 
Owner, occupants and the general public 
must be prevented from violating the 
security of the fire scene. An effective 
way to do this is to erect a temporary 
barricade with utility/roof lines or other 
such ropes, and to station personnel at 
key points. 

Personnel required to remain in the 
structure should be instructed not to 
disturb evidence unless absolutely un- 
avoidable. Where evidence has been 
identified, a firefighter should be as- 
signed the responsibility of guarding that 
evidence from being disturbed or de- 
stroyed. Firefighters posted as guards 
should remain with the evidence until 
relieved by the fire investigator. 

Call Investigator 

Immediately after securing the scene and 
ensuring the preservation of evidence, 
the fire officer-in-charge should notify 
the fire investigation agency for 
assistance. Fire department personnel 
must remain on the scene until the 
arrival of the fire investigator. This 
preserves the "chain-of-evidence" which 
wiU be required for admissibility of the 
evidence later in court. 

Prepare Field Notes on 
Observa tions 

While awaiting the arrival of the fire 
investigator, volunteer firefighters 
should begin preparing their field notes. 
Such notes should include all pertinent 
information and observations made of 
the fire. Bear in mind that such notes 
can be used in court to refresh the 
firefighter's memory while testifying, 
should that become necessary. 

Assist Investigators 

When the fire investigator arrives, the 
officer-in-charge normally turns over 

fire investigation command to him. All 
information on fire behavior and any 
observations of unusual circumstances 
should be given to the investigator. As 
necessary , fire personnel should provide 
the investigator with assistance. Fre- 
quently, investigators have a need for 
manpower, equipment and lighting to 
conduct their investigation. Such help by 
the volunteers increases the probability 
for success in the investigation. 

Prepare Reports 

After returning to quarters (and after 
readying apparatus and equipment for 
the next run), formal reports should be 
made by the officer-in-charge. The 
report should be legible and contain all 
information on the fire in chronological 
order. Remember that an effective 
report is brief and concise but includes 
all pertinent data. Field notes properly 
prepared are most helpful in developing 
the formal fire report. 

Provide Investigator With 

Copies of all reports should be made 
available to the investigator as soon as 
possible. Frequently, such reports con- 
tain information vital to the conduct of 
the investigation. 

Cooperate With the Prosecutor 

As the prosecutor prepares the case 
either for grand jury indictment or 
prosecution, he may contact the volun- 
teer firefighters who responded to the 
fire. The purpose is to establish and 
develop information and evidence that 
will assist in processing the case. Fire 
department cooperation can often be 
critical to a successful prosecution. 

Appearing as a Witness 

Because most fire service personnel have 
never appeared as witnesses in court 
procedures, the suggestions that follow 
could be helpful. 

Dress in uniform; 

Be neat and well groomed; 

Give short answers, yes or no, if 
so directed; 

Answer only as to what you ob- 
served, heard and did; 

Do not try to tell a story; 

Do not offer information that is 
not requested; 

Be courteous, avoid sarcasm; 

If you do not l<now the answer, 
say so; 

Do not hurry your answer; think 
what you want to say; 

Do not become "rattled," stay 

Do not profess to be an expert; if 
you are an expert, you will be 
qualified as such by the Court; 

If you are not sure of a question, 
ask that it be repeated. 

Convict the Arsonist 

The cooperation of the fire department 
can help convict an arsonist— a menace 
to your community, to your fellow 
firefighters, and to yourself. Without 
the volunteer firefighter's commitment 
to fulfill his responsibility in arson 
detection and investigation, in all 
probability, the arsonist can strike again 
and again. 

Exclusion of Accidental Causes 

Detection of arson can be a difficult 
procedure. All probable accidental cau- 
ses of fire at the point of origin must be 
eliminated for the fire to be determined 
the result of an incendiary act. Detec- 



tion training in basic fire cause and 
origin is a must if this difficulty is to be 

Even with recognition of tell-tale signs 
just previously described, the volunteer 
needs to be familiar with the generally 
accepted accidental causes of fire (some 
of which may be in violation of the 
safety codes): 

• Electric System 

— fuses, bridged with wire or 
foil or in which pennies have 
been inserted 

— broken or rotten insulation 

— over-loaded circuits 

— defective switches or fixtures 

— wiring not installed according 
to local or national electric 

• Electric Equipment or Appli- 

— not of approved type 

— defective 

— iron or other heating equip- 
ment left on or unattended or 
too close to combustibles 

— paper lamp shades on electric 

• Gas 

— leaks in pipes, defective 
stoves, or heating unit 

• Pets 

— accidentally tipping over 
materials, stoves, or appli- 

• Painting Equipment 

— carelessness with storage of 
paint, paint rags, linseed oil, 
turpentine, etc. 

— cleaning paint brushes 

• Heating Units 

— overheated stoves 

— clothing being dried too close 
to fireplaces, stoves, or open 

— overheated steam pipes 

— faulty chimneys or flues 

— explosions resulting from 
kerosene stoves 

— fireplace spark 

• Lightning 

— occurrence of lightning and 
thunderstorms should be 
checked as a possibility of 

• Children 

— match play, unattended chil- 

• Outside Rubbish Fire 

• Cooking 

— grease spilling 

• Smoking 

— careless disposal of ciga- 
rettes, cigars, pipe ashes 

— persons falling asleep while 
smoking in chair, bed, auto, 

• Storage of Hay, Grain 

Check for prior condition to 
eliminate spontaneous combus- 

Establishing Proof of Arson — 
"Corpus Delicti" 

Note the definition of "Corpus Delicti" in 
the Glossary in the back of this manual 
which states: 

1) Material substance upon which a 
crime has been committed. In 
arson, the Corpus Delicti is 
established by proving that 
material has been destroyed or 
damaged as a result of the fire. 

2) The establishment of fact that a 
crime was committed. In arson, 
it is required to demonstrate 
that the fire occurred, that the 
fire was the result of an 
incendiary act, and that the 
incendiary act was committed 
with criminal intent. So in a 
court of law, the case must be 
proved that the burning was the 
willful act of some person and 
not the result of accidental or 
natural causes. Lawyers phrase 
this as establishing the Corpus 
Delicti . 

Therefore, you can and must help in the 
task to detail the suspicious circum- 
stances surrounding the fire which indi- 
cate it to be the work of an arsonist. 
Your responsibilities in arson detection 
and investigation are of such importance 
that it might be well to repeat and re- 
view how you might be more effective in 
these responsibilities. 

You have the responsibility not only to 
save lives, control and suppress the fire, 
but also to be observant. Your observa- 
tions may help establish the Corpus De- 
licti in the arson case. Critical circum- 
stances of fire and the fire scene may 
have been called to your attention. By 
noting the fire's location upon arrival, by 
noticing what is burning and what is not, 
by observing its path of travel, and its 
intensity you can provide information 
that is vital to the fire investigation and 
the establishment of the Corpus Delicti . 

Knowing what to look for is also 
necessary in preserving the fire scene. 
Delaying or minimizing the effects of 
overhaul, leaving contents in place, and 
not trampling or destroying objects are 
aU extremely helpful to an investigator's 
subsequent reconstruction of the scene. 

When fires are of a suspicious nature, 
your salvage operations should be 
suspended until the investigator arrives. 
Overhauling should be carefully done to 
prevent disturbance of evidence. Remo- 

val of any contents or structural ele- 
ments should be delayed until after the 
investigator arrives. Preserving the 
scene includes barring unauthorized per- 
sonnel, especially unescorted occupants 
who conceal or remove evidence. The 
removal of valuable documents, jewelry, 
personal belongings and other salvage- 
able items should be performed as soon 
as possible. But the removal of contents 
should always be done under supervision 
of the fire officer-in-charge or the 

Any obvious arson plant should be 
protected until it has been photographed 
in its original position. Photographs of 
plants reconstructed after they have 
been removed from the premises have no 
value whatsoever in courts of law. 

Ideally, evidence should be kept 
untouched and undisturbed. If evidence 
must be moved, the item and its exact 
location before it was moved should be 
identified and photographed or, at least, 
sketched. Be sure that nothing is added 
to or taken away from an item of 
evidence. Preferably, only the investi- 
gator should handle evidence. Proper 
protection of evidence is a technical 
matter and may vary from one jurisdic- 
tion to another. Volunteers should leave 
this to the investigator or appropriate 

Drivers, pump operators, engineers and 
officers are also in a position to provide 
valuable information about the external 
circumstances of the fire. They have an 
opportunity to observe occupants and 
bystanders whose actions might be 
meaningful in the investigation and 
overhear conversations about the fire. 
While laying lines, connecting hydrants 
and operating equipment, these fire- 
fighters might recognize familiar faces 
or "repeaters" who show undue interest, 
are overanxious, try to help with the 
firefighting, or otherwise call attention 
to themselves. 

When cause and origin of a fire have 31 


been established and accidental cause 
has been ruled out, the fire chief or 
officer-in-charge has the responsibility 
to contact the fire investigator to pursue 
the investigation. If the volunteer de- 
partment is not associated with an arson 
task force, the officer or chief should 
contact the county or state fire 
marshal's office. 

What Should Be Done in Case of a 
Death in the Fire 

1) Follow your local or state proce- 

2) If it's a fire to cover a crime and 
you can leave the body where 
you found it, do so. Call the 
county coroner and the law en- 
forcement agency responsible. 
Some states require notification 
of the state fire marshal in all 
fire-related deaths. 

Protection of the Fire Scene — 
Guarding Building and Property 
Involved in Fire 

Post a guard . In many instances, no 
trained investigator is immediately 
available after the discovery of suspi- 
cious circumstances. However, the 
building should be guarded and kept 
under the control of the fire department 
until all evidence has been collected. It 
should be the policy of all fire depart- 
ments to call a trained fire investigator 
into the case as soon as possible . Local 
cases can sometimes be handled by the 
police/sheriff's department or fire and 
police arson squads, but arson investiga- 
tion is a highly specialized branch of law 
enforcement. A trained fire investigator 
should do the job. Local fire department 
and police department investigators can 
receive expert aid from the state fire 
marshal's office for assistance in fire 
investigation. No unauthorized person 
should be allowed to enter or leave the 
fire building. Bear in mind that owners 
and occupants have legitimate reasons 
for wanting to enter their property; how- 

ever, when such persons are allowed to 
enter, they should be accompanied by a 
member of the guard or someone desig- 
nated by the officer-in-charge. If much 
time is required to complete the investi- 
gation, seek the advice of the 
prosecutor's office for the legal means to 
secure the fire scene. 

During visits to the premises, careful 
note should be made of the actions, 
points visited and materials handled by 
the person accompanied. In general, no 
articles should be removed by owners or 
occupants that might be involved in the 
investigation. The guard should carefully 
inspect aU articles taken and note the 
following points. 


time of day, 

name of person, 

whether owner or occupant, 

careful description of article or 
articles removed, and 

original location of article(s). 

If the time involved is of considerable 
duration and it is necessary to change 
guards, notation should be made in the 
company journal of the time of such 
change and who the relief guard was. 

Bear in mind that a designated guard has 
authority to prevent the entrance of 
unauthorized persons for a reasonable 
length of time. In cases where time of 
guarding extends over several hours, you 
should check with the district attorney's 
office before continuing to deny an 
owner entrance to and use of his pro- 

When the firefighter's job is completed, 
he should take notes as soon as possible 
in chronological order, concerning all 
events related to the fire. These notes 
will be an invaluable record both for the 

arson investigator and for the fire- 
fighter's own courtroom appearance, if 
that becomes necessary. A small, 
pocket-size notebook is appropriate for 
this purpose. 

Please note again that Figure 2 provides 
a flow chart of the arson detection/in- 
vestigation process. 


Volunteer firefighters can and do play an 
important role in the prevention and 
control of the crime of arson. The 
purpose of this Arson Control Guide for 
Volunteer Fire Departments is to help 
improve the awareness of the volunteer 
firefighter of the factors and problems 

involved in combating the crime. Part I 
of this manual offers guidance in 
developing arson task forces, one of the 
most effective and successful approaches 
in arson prevention and control. The 
information in Part n enables the 
volunteer to be more alert to the 
symptoms of arson, so that he can 
recognize and safeguard evidence of the 
crime necessary to obtain a conviction. 
The appendices contain a glossary of 
arson terms, descriptions of several 
arson task forces in which the volunteer 
system is participating, examples of 
interjurisdictional agreements for arson 
task force coverage and a list of anti- 
arson materials available from the 
insurance industry. A copy of the USFA 
Arson Resource Directory is a sup- 
plementary part of this manual. 




A. Glossary 

The following are terms used in this 
Manual or frequently used in fire/arson 


Material or substance used in setting an 
incendiary fire that speeds fire spread 
and increases intensity to maximize 
destruction. The most commonly em- 
ployed accelerants are gasoline and other 
similar volatile liquids. 


Claim by defendant of having been 
elsewhere at the time a criminal act 
occurred. Alibis are normally well pre- 
pared by criminals and careful investiga- 
tion is required to establish true facts. 


Indirect evidence used in conjunction 
with other indirect evidence to remove 
reasonable doubt that a fact exists. One 
form of circumstantial evidence in an 
arson case would be to show that the 
defendent had opportunity to set the fire 
and was in a position to realize economic 
gain from the result of the fire. 


Liquid with a flash point at or below 


Method of heat being transferred by 
direct contact or through an intervening 
heat conducting material. One common 
example of conduction is the heating of 
the handle of a spoon placed in a hot 


Method of heat being transferred by a 
circulation medium, such as superheated 
fire gases or liquids. Warm air rises 
above its heat source and circulates 
throughout the area. 

CORPUS DELICTI (Body of the Crime) 

1. Material substance upon which 
a crime has been committed. 
In arson, the corpus delicti is 
established by proving that 
material has been destroyed or 
damaged as the result of the 

2. The establishment of fact that 
a crime was committed. In 
arson it is required to demon- 
strate that the fire occurred, 
the fire was the result of an 
incendiary act, and that the 
incendiary act was committed 
with criminal intent. 


Evidence which clearly demonstrates the 
existence of a fact in question, without 
need of additional evidence or truth to 
the contrary. A form of direct evidence 
in an arson case is when it is established 
that the fire did in fact occur and/or 
witnesses testify that they saw a person 
set it. 


Rapid release of energy. Explosions are 
caused by chemical reactions, physical 
(pressure) reactions or nuclear reac- 
tions. An explosion may or may not be 
accompanied or followed by a fire. 




The agent or circumstance which starts a 
fire or allows one to start. 


The lowest temperature point at which a 
liquid gives off sufficient flammable 
vapor to produce sustained combustion 
after removal of the ignition source. 


Capable of burning or producing flame at 
ordinary temperature; being easily ig- 


The highest and lowest volumetric 
percentages or concentration of a flam- 
mable gas or vapor with the oxygen in 
the air that wiU explode or ignite in the 
presence of an ignition source. The 
flammable limits of gasoline are 1.4% to 


A liquid with a flash point lower than 


A condition of fire spread which occurs 
when materials in the fire reach ignition 
temperature more or less simultaneously 
and the fire bursts throughout the area 
and flames appear on all surfaces. 


The lowest temperature at which a liquid 
or solid emits sufficient vapors to 
propagate flame in the continuous 
presence of an ignition source. The flash 
point of gasoline is normally minus 45° F, 

while its ignition point ranges from 536 
to 880° F, dependent upon octane level. 


Form of energy produced by the rapid 
movement of molecules as a result of 
chemical reaction, mechanical action or 
nuclear reaction. 


Any fire intentionally set. 


An electronic, electrical, mechanical or 
chemical ignition device to provide a 
source of ignition. Timing devices allow 
the incendiarist to leave the scene 
before the fire starts, and in some cases, 
to be seen at another location by 
witnesses when the fire occurs in order 
to establish an alibi. 


Also referred to as a burning or kindling 
point. The temperature to which a sub- 
stance must be raised before it will ig- 
nite and continue to burn without appli- 
cation of a flame. 


The purpose to use a particular means to 
effect a certain result. Ordinarily in- 
ferred from the facts. Intent shows the 
presence of wiU in the act which con- 
summates a crime and is an element to 
be proven by the prosecutor. 

^"Intent" and "Motive" are not in law one 
and the same thing, State v. Logan , 344 
MO. 351, 126 S.W. 2d. 256. 



In the arson situation, it is the technique, 
manner, means or way in which the 
firesetter commits the crime; it refers 
to the method of operation normally 
employed by an individual criminal. 


The transmission or production of heat 
by emission of particles or waves; for 
example, the beam of heat given off 
from a reflector-type electric heater. 
Radiated heat waves are in the infrared 
and ultraviolet ranges. 

A cause or reason that induces action; 
that which excites or stimulates a person 
to do an act. Motive is not an essential 
element to be proven by the prosecutor 
but it is obviously necessary to point out 
to a jury. 


In fire, a chemical heat liberating reac- 
tion in which a material (fuel) reacts 
with a substance containing oxygen to 
produce heat, light, and products of 


Any clue, trace, impression or thing so 
connected with the fire as to shed light 
on its origin or spread. 



Such a doubt as would cause a reasonably 
prudent person to pause and hesitate to 
act upon the truth of the matter 


Heating and ignition involving a com- 
bustible material or combination of 
materials is described as "spontaneous" if 
the inherent characteristics of the 
materials cause a heat producing 
chemical action to proceed without 
exposure to external sources of fire, 
spark or abnormal heat. The process is 
known as "spontaneous heating," and as 
"spontaneous ignition" or "spontaneous 
combustion" if ignition occurs. 

Combustible materials or accelerants 
used to feed the initial flame of an 
incendiary fire and to assist in fire 


The exact place or near exact area 
where the fire started. 


The greater weight and sufficiency of 
evidence in civil legal proceedings. 


Designation of a fire for which the exact 
cause could not be determined but which, 
due to unusual circumstances, could have 
been of incendiary origin. 


A person paid to set a fire, often 
associated with organized crime. 



Combustible materials used to spread the 
fire between "plants," or throughout the 
building. Trailers may be saturated with 
an accelerant. 


0. Suggested Model for 

Interlocal Agreement for 
County Arson Task Force 

Suggested Model for Interlocal 
Agreement for County Arson Task Force 

THIS AGREEMENT made and entered 

into effect the day of , 

19 , by and between the agencies and 

municipalities signatory hereto: 


A. WHEREAS, there is a need for an 
investigative/prosecution task force for 
suspected airson cases; and 

B. WHEREAS, interested agencies have 
determined the best possible method for 
attacking the arson problem within 
County would be to form such a task 
force; and 

C. WHEREAS, the signators hereto de- 
sire to enter into this Agreement to 
provide investigative/prosecution of 
arson cases; and 

D. WHEREAS, each governmental 
agency or elective office herein repre- 
sented as a signator to this Agreement is 
authorized to perform each service con- 
templated for it herein. 

NOW THEREFORE in consideration of 
the mutual convenants and the terms and 
conditions set forth below, each of the 
agencies and municipalities which are 
signatories to this Agreement, do hereby 
agree, as such agencies and munici- 
palities are empowered to do pursuant to 
state law, Chapter as follows: 

1. The County Arson Task Force 
is created for the purpose of providing 
arson detection, investigative and pro- 
secutorial capabilities to the local law 
enforcement agencies and fire depart- 
ments throughout the County. 

2. The Arson Task Force will be 
under the direction and supervision of 

the County Fire Marshal subject, 

however, to the guidance and control of 
an Advisory Board who shall provide 
guidance in matters of policy and plan- 

3. The Advisory Board shall be 
composed of representatives from the 
public agencies who are signatories 
hereto, and those other agencies in the 
community which are involved or 
interested in arson control efforts. 

4. The Arson Task Force's Strike 
Force will be available and on caU to all 
fire and police agencies within County, 
signatory to this Agreement, to inves- 
tigate and foUow through prosecution all 
fires of suspicious origin or unknown 

5. The Investigation Strike 
Force will be vested with aU inves- 
tigative and police powers of the County 
Sheriff's Department. 

6. Funding for the Arson Task 
Force will be borne by participating 
agencies on a per capita basis. 

7. Members of the Strike Force 
will be selected by standard County 
personnel hiring procedures after proper 
advertising, application submission and 

8. The County Fire Marshal's 
Office will provide administrative and 
supervisory support to the Task Force. 

9. AU signatory agencies agree 
to cooperate and participate in the 
fire/arson data collection system imple- 
mented through this project. 

10. The Arson Task Force will 
comply with aU necessary Federal, State 
and local laws and regulations, including 
disposal of property acquired from grant 

11. This Agreement shall be 
deemed to be operational upon approval 
by the participating signatory agencies. 

12. Withdrawal of a participating 
agency shall take effect only after not 
less than 120 days written notice to the 
Advisory Board and only at the end of 
any calendar year. 

13. This Agreement shall be filed 
with the City Clerks of participating 
agencies, the County Auditor and the 
Secretary of State following adoption by 
each agency in the manner required by 

14. Amendment to this Agree- 
ment shaU only be by written agreement 
approved by each participating agency. 

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, the parties 
hereto have executed this Agreement to 
be effective on the date first above 



City Clerk 


City Clerk 







Clerk of the Board 



C. Metropolitan Arson Task 
Force — The Montgomery 
County, Ohio Arson Task 

Montgomery County is an urban county 
in the southwestern portion of Ohio. 
Approximately one-third of the county's 
population of 645,000 reside within the 
city of Dayton. 

The county is composed of nine cities, 13 
townships and eight villages. The type of 
construction and social character of the 
communities which make up the county 
are generally typical of the U.S. Dayton 
is experiencing aU the common older city 
problems: inner city decline, relatively 
low income area, flight from the city to 
the suburbs, a growing percentage of 
rental structures with absentee land- 
lords. The county has fast growing 
suburbs with expensive new homes and 
includes small rural villages that have 
experienced little change over the years. 

Before 1978, arson investigation was 
primarily the responsibility of the local 
fire departments with little communi- 
cation between the fire departments and 
other potentially helpful agencies. Due 
to the lack of success with this approach, 
in January of 1978, the City of Dayton 
formed the Arson Abatement Unit which 
was a joint effort by the Police and Fire 
Departments to deal with the arson prob- 
lem. The unit consisted of three (3) 
representatives of the Dayton Fire De- 
partment and one (1) Dayton Police De- 
tective. Realizing that the arson 
problem spread across artificial political 
boundaries, the Arson Abatement Unit 
was expanded in January of 1979 to a 
countywide effort, coordinated by the 
Dayton Fire Department. A detective 
from the Montgomery County Sheriff's 
Office and a fire investigator from the 
City of Miamisburg were added to the 
Arson Abatement Unit, All of the fire 

department representatives in the unit 
were trained and commissioned as deputy 
sheriffs by the Montgomery County 
Sheriff's office. The Arson Abatement 
Unit now serves all 30 cities, townships, 
and villages within the county. 

This unit, upon request of a local fire 
department, responds to any fire within 
the county to assist in the fire inves- 
tigation in order to determine whether 
the fire was an arson and to assist in 
evidence collection and preservation. 
Once the fire is determined to be an 
arson and the evidence has been 
collected and analyzed, the investigation 
is turned over to the local jurisdiction 
for foUow-up. Presently, the Arson 
Abatement Unit conducts foUow-up 
investigations only in Dayton and 

The primary function of this unit, at the 
present time, is to train local police and 
fire officials in arson investigation pro- 
cedures. Recognizing that fire depart- 
ment operational personnel must be 
trained to identify the characteristics of 
an arson fire and how to preserve the 
scene until an investigator arrives, the 
Arson Abatement Unit has conducted 
seven (7) eight-hour training courses for 
area firefighters and police officers, 
educating them about their respon- 
sibilities in these areas. This course has 
been video-taped to enable its usage on 
the local cable TV for training all area 
police and fire personnel. 

In addition, the unit has conducted four 
(4) comprehensive forty-eight hour train- 
ing courses in arson investigation for 
area police and fire investigators. The 
reception to these courses by area per- 
sonnel has been outstanding. Since the 
unit was formed, 329 fire and police 
personnel have been trained, repre- 
senting 13 jurisdictions, in either the 
detection course or the complete inves- 
tigation course. 

In addition to the training courses, the 
unit sponsors monthly meetings inviting 

all the police and fire departments from 
the jurisdictions within the county. At 
these meetings mutual problems relating 
to the identification, investigation, and 
prosecution of arson fires are discussed. 

In 1979, the average monthly attendance 
has been 30, representing 13 fire and 7 
police departments. Considering the 
history of police/ fire relations and multi- 
jurisdictional cooperation in Montgomery 
County, these figures represent a high 
degree of interest and cooperation. 

To improve its record in the area of 
arrests and convictions, the Arson 
Abatement Unit has entered into a co- 
operative agreement with the Mont- 
gomery County Prosecutor's Office to 
have one prosecutor assigned to handle 
all arson cases. This has eliminated the 
practice of dealing with several different 
prosecutors. It also allows the training 
of the one assigned prosecutor to the 
problems inherent in arson prosecution. 

The Arson Abatement Unit has also 
entered into a cooperative agreement 
with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and 
Firearms (ATF). ATF agents respond to 
certain fires upon the request of 
members of the Arson Abatement Unit 
and they are also working with the unit 
to develop a suspect, cross-indexing 
system. This arrangement has sig- 
nificantly enhanced the work of the 
Arson Abatement Unit. 

Because every neighborhood may be 
experiencing a different type of arson 
problem, the Arson Abatement Unit has 
been dealing with various community 
groups in an effort to develop neigh- 
borhood strategies for dealing with 
arson. For example, some neighborhoods' 
arson problems are primarily a juvenile 
mischief problem; in other areas, it may 
be arson-for-profit. This approach has 
resulted in the initiation of arson pre- 
vention patrols whereby volunteer neigh- 
borhood assistance officers drive fire 
department vehicles at night in certain 
targeted neighborhoods which are expe- 
riencing the most severe arson problem. 

Extending this neighborhood concept one 
step further, the Arson Abatement Unit 
began an experiment in southeast Dayton 
which experienced an unusually large 
number of arson fires. It created a 
special task force to work with repre- 
sentatives of the neighborhood to deal 
with the problems of the neighborhood as 
a whole, and to develop neighborhood 
level strategies. A large portion of the 
arson problem in this neighborhood was 
due to juvenile mischief in abandoned 
buildings. Strategies included redirec- 
tion of more recreation programs and 
locating more jobs for neighborhood 

To reduce the turnaround time for the 
processing and analysis of evidence 
collected at the scene of fires, the Arson 
Abatement Unit has made an agreement 
with the Miami VaUey Regional Crime 
Laboratory for joint purchase of neces- 
sary equipment, which has enabled the 
laboratory to handle the Montgomery 
County evidence locally. 

Within the first eighteen (18) months the 
Arson Abatement Unit has been in 
operation it has: 

1) Improved the capabilities of 
all police and fire departments 
within the county to deal with 
the arson problem by conduct- 
ing thorough training pro- 

2) Improved coordination of all 
involved agencies by insti- 
tuting monthly meetings for 
all jurisdictions to meet with 
Arson Abatement Unit mem- 
bers and discuss current prot)- 

3) Improved cooperation among 
aU jurisdictions. The exchange 
of information on suspects and 
the establishment of a county- 
wide cross-indexing file based 
on suspects, location, owner, 
and occupant has helped sig- 
nificantly in controlling arson. 

4) Improved communication to 
sensitize all participating 
agencies and jurisdictions to 
the concerns of the others. 

5) Improved the collection of 
arson data. All the juris- 
dictions are now filing copies 
of their arson investigation 
reports with the unit on a form 
developed by the unit. 

6) Improved the recognition of 
arson fires as well as the 
preservation of potential evi- 
dence through the training of 
area fire department operation 

7) Made community groups aware 
of the extent of the arson 
problems in their areas and 
involved them in the develop- 
ment of neighborhood strate- 
gies to mitigate the problem. 


D. Regional Arson Task 

Force — The Regional Arson 
Investigation Program of the 
Central Virginia Planning 

The Regional Arson Investigation Pro- 
gram is a basic component of the "Cen- 
tral Virginia Comprehensive Criminal 
Justice Plan for 1980." It came into 
existence in 1979 because in the pre- 
ceeding four years there was a sub- 
stantial and steady increase in the inci- 
dence of arson and suspected arson-rela- 
ted cases. Prompted by this concern, the 
Lynchburg Fire Marshal's office in 1978, 
assisted by the Criminal Justice Advisory 
Committee of the planning district con- 
ducted a study to determine the extent 
of the region's arson problem and the 
capabilities of the public and volunteer 
fire departments, law enforcement, pro- 
secutional and judicial agencies to deal 
with the crime. The necessity of a re- 
gional approach to prevent and control 
the crime evolved from this study and 
was recommended to the Central Vir- 
ginia Planning District Commission. 

The Commission adopted a resolution in 
March, 1979 to establish a Regional 
Arson Investigation Program and recom- 
mended to the local governing bodies 
within the planning district to execute a 
reciprocal agreement to create a re- 
gional anti-arson project. The Fire Mar- 
shal's Office of the city of Lynchburg 
was designated as the arson program 
administrator. The following juris- 
dictions adopted the resolution to create 
the program: 

Amherst County Bedford City 

Amherst Town Brookneal Town 

Appomattox County Altavista Town 
Appomattox Town Lynchburg City 
Bedford County Campbell County 

The Regional Arson Investigation 
Program developed a management plan 
with the following strategies: 

1. To establish a regional arson 
investigation squad for conduct- 
ing saturation arson investiga- 
tions in requesting jurisdictions 
within the planning district, 

2. To provide specialized arson 
investigation and detection 
training for members of the 
regional arson investigation 
squad in the planning district, 

3. To provide arson recognition and 
collection of physical evidence 
training for members of volun- 
teer fire departments, 

4. To provide arson investigation 
and arson case management 
training for prosecutorial and 
judicial personnel in the planning 

5. To purchase an equipped mobile 
arson detection vehicle for use 
by the regional arson inves- 
tigation squad in the planning 

6. To purchase arson detection and 
communication support equip- 
ment for use by the regional 
arson investigation squad in the 
planning district, 

7. To implement a regional public 
information/education program 
regarding arson prevention and 
control in the planning district, 

8. To create a uniform, regional 
information reporting, collecting 
and retrieving system for arson 
cases in the planning district. 

With these strategies in mind, the 
Regional Arson Investigation Program 
also has set for itself clearly measurable 

objectives: The program's overall effec- 
tiveness in addressing the arson problem 
will be based on measuring the following 
impact goals as compared with 1975- 
1977 base line incidence figures: 

1. A 70 percent increase in the 
clearance rate by arrest of arson 
fire incidents over an 18-month 

2. A 50 percent increase in convic- 
tion of those persons arrested on 
a charge of arson over an 18- 
month period, 

3. A decrease of 35 percent in the 
number of fires categorized as of 
unknown cause over an 18-month 

4. A 75 percent increase in the 
number of arson fire incidents 
investigated over an 18-month 

5. A 100 percent increase in the 
number of law enforcement offi- 
cers trained in arson investi- 
gation over an 18-month period, 

6. A 90 percent increase in the 
number of prosecutorial and 
judicial personnel trained in 
arson case management, 

7. A response time of 1 hour or less 
from the time of activation of 
the regional arson investigation 
squad until the squad's arrival at 
the fire scene, 

8. A 90 percent increase in the 
early involvement and subse- 
quent early case preparation of 
arson cases by prosecutors over 
an 18-month period, 

9. An 85 percent increase in the 
number of volunteer fire de- 
partment personnel trained in 
arson recognition and evidence 
collection over an 18-month 
period, and 

10. A 95 percent increase in the 
number of information caUs 
received from the public regard- 
ing arson incidents over an 18- 
month period. 

Major anti-arson efforts in the planning 
district had been primarily developed and 
coordinated by the Lynchburg Fire 
Marshal's Office since its creation in 
1975. Prior to 1975, the Lynchburg Fire 
Prevention Bureau existed as an agency 
charged with enforcing fire codes, 
whereas the Lynchburg Police Depart- 
ment was charged with investigating 
arson and fire-related crimes. Fire- 
fighters, at this time, did not have the 
expertise to conduct an arson investi- 
gation. Policemen, although trained in 
investigation techniques, did not have 
specific arson investigation training. 
Therefore, arson was investigated only if 
loss of life or extensive property loss 
resulted from a fire incident. Thus the 
police were called to testify during ad- 
judication of an arson case rather than 
firefighters. Although disposition re- 
cords prior to 1975 are not completely 
accurate, data reveals that approxi- 
mately four (4) percent of all persons 
arrested for arson were convicted. 

In 1975 the Lynchburg Fire Marshal's 
Office was created as a result of growing 
concern over the rise of arson. This 
office has a staff of five (5) deputy fire 
marshals who are trained firefighters 
with specialized arson investigation 
expertise possessing full police powers in 
the City of Lynchburg and Common- 
wealth of Virginia. Each of these fire 
marshals was required to take a 520-hour 
basic law enforcement training course to 
be sworn as a law enforcement officer; a 
60-hour course in fire suppression and 
containment to be issued a general fire- 
manship certificate; specialized training 
at the State Arson Investigation School 
in Williamsburg, Virginia; and specialized 
arson training in such subjects as incen- 
diary devices, gas chromatography, and 
forensic science. In addition, a 40-hour 
in-service training course every two 

years for law enforcement purposes, 
weekly police patrol assignments and 
periodic refresher courses pertinent to 
fire suppression/control and investigation 
are required of these personnel. 

The fire marshal of the city of 
Lynchburg is the Regional Arson Investi- 
gation Program's Administrator, and the 
city's chief financial officer acts as the 
program's fiscal agent, responsible for all 
disbursements, purchases, and account- 
ing. Both the arson investigator and 
squad and its advisory committee have 
been legally authorized by the ten juris- 
dictions within the Central Virginia 
Planning District. 

The advisory committee serves as a 
policy body to the program administrator 
in all matters related to the imple- 
mentation of the regional arson investi- 
gation program. In addition, it serves as 
an advisory vehicle for arson investiga- 
tion squad operations. As such, the advi- 
sory committee oversees the operation 
of the squad. 

The arson squad is composed of fire 
marshal and law enforcement officials. 
The officer-in-charge is the chief 
official of a requesting jurisdiction for 
the services of the squad. When the 
squad is called into a jurisdiction, there 
is only one officer-in-charge who main- 
tains liaison with the advisory committee 
and commonwealth attorney of the re- 
questing jurisdiction. The officer-in- 
charge commands squad operations in his 
jurisdiction. Other members of the 
squad are assigned to serve in specific 
capacities for proper handling of the 
arson investigation. 

Once the fire incident is recognized by a 
fire department to be suspicious, the 
local law enforcement agency is con- 
tacted to conduct a preliminary investi- 
gation of the fire incident. If the law 
enforcement officer's opinion concurs 
with that of the fire department, then 
the regional arson investigator squad is 
notified for squad activation. The chair- 
person, in conjunction with the locality's 
officer-in-charge, determines the sever- 



Response by 
Local Fire 

Preliminary Deter- 
mination of Cause 
bv Fire Personnel 



Advise | 
ting Attn, 







— Suspicious 

Preliminary Investi- 
gation by Local 
Law Enforcement 

Chief Local Lav 


Arson Squad 

of Arson 


Notification of 
Regional Arson 

Squad Advisory 
Comm. Chairperson 

Notification of 
.Arson Squad 



Fire Marshal 





(representing local jurisdiction 

where incident has occured) 

















ity of the fire incident to decide whether 
a partial or full activation of the squad is 
necessary. Activation of arson squad 
members and equipment to the request- 
ing jurisdiction fire incident is done by 
the advisory committee chairperson. 
Once investigators arrive at the fire 
scene and conduct their investigation, 
the fire incident is either determined as 
accidental or supicious. If determined 
suspicious, then witnesses are inter- 
viewed, evidence collected and sent to 
the state forensic lab and the local 
commonwealth attorney is notified to 
assist in interviewing witnesses, taking 
statements, and early preparation of the 
arson case. The officer-in-charge of the 
arson investigation continually advises 
the prosecutor and squad advisory com- 
mittee chairperson of the investigation's 

status. Once a suspect is apprehended 
and charged with arson, the squad is 
deactivated. Those investigators assist- 
ing the commonwealth attorney in pre- 
paring the arson case for adjudication 
wiU remain on-caU until final case dispo- 
sition. No investigation by the squad 
usually extends over a 5-day period, 
except where unusual circumstances 
warrant an extension. 

A flow chart of the arson investigation 
process is shown in Figure 1. Figure 2 
charts the organizational structure of 
the Regional Arson Investigation Pro- 
gram. Also attached is the interjurisdic- 
tional agreement of the Central Virginia 
Planning District setting up the Regional 
Arson Investigation Program. 



made and entered into and between the 
CITY OF LYNCHBURG, Virginia, party 
of the first part; the CITY OF BED- 
FORD, Virginia, party of the second 
part; the COUNTY OF AMHERST, Vir- 
ginia, party of the third part; THE 
party of the fourth part; the COUNTY 
OF BEDFORD, Virginia, party of the 
fifth part; the COUNTY OF CAMPBELL, 
Virginia, party of the sixth peirt; the 
TOWN OF ALTAVISTA, Virginia, party 
of the seventh part; the TOWN OF AM- 
HERST, Virginia, party of the eighth 
Virginia, party of the ninth part; the 
TOWN OF BROOKNEAL, Virginia, party 
of the tenth part. 


WHEREAS, Section 15.1 - 131.3 of the 
Code of Virginia of 1950, as amended, 
authorizes the governing body of any 
county, city, or town, in its discretion, to 
enter into a reciprocal agreement with 
any other county, city, town, or combi- 
nation thereof, for such periods and un- 
der such conditions as the contracting 
parties deem advisable for the coopera- 
tion in the furnishing of police services; 
and subject to the conditions of said 
agreement, aU policemen, officers, 
agents and other employees of such co- 
operating law enforcement agencies shall 
have the same powers, rights, benefits, 
privileges and immunities in every juris- 
diction subscribing to said agreement; 

WHEREAS, the respective City Councils 
of the Cities of Lynchburg and Bedford, 
the Boards of Supervisors of the Counties 
of Amherst, Appomattox, Bedford, and 
Campbell, and the Town Councils of the 
Towns of AltaVista, Amherst, Appomat- 
tox, and Brookneal have adopted resolu- 
tions authorizing the execution of this 
reciprocal agreement, certified copies of 
the said resolutions being hereto at- 


That for and in consideration of the 
premises and of the mutual benefits to 
be derived hereunder, the parties do 
hereby reciprocally agree as follows: the 
City of Lynchburg, party of the first 
part; the City of Bedford, party of the 
second part; the County of Amherst, 
party of the third part; the County of 
Appomattox, party of the fourth part; 
the County of Bedford, party of the fifth 
part; the County of Campbell, party of 
the sixth part; the Town of Altavista, 
party of the seventh part; the Town of 
Amherst, party of the eighth part; the 
Town of Appomattox, party of the ninth 
part; and the Town of Brookneal, party 
of the tenth part; do hereby reciprocally 
agree as follows: 


The purpose of the Regional Arson 
Investigation Squad (hereinafter referred 
to as "Squad") shall be to provide the 
member jurisdictions of Central Virginia 
Planning District with an expeditious 
solution to solving arson cases. The 
operation of the Squad shall provide 
many related benefits ranging from the 
exchanges of information to actual pro- 
fessional investigating capabilities for 
the jurisdictions that cannot sufficiently 
be staffed to provide the saturation type 
of investigation which may be necesseiry 
to effect a solution in arson cases. More 
specifically, the Squad shall provide 
greater law enforcement facilities for all 
the member jurisdictions of the Central 
Virginia Planning District because of the 
following conditions: (1) a small juris- 
diction rarely is sufficiently staffed or 
equipped to investigate a major arson 
case; (2) the perpetrator in many cases 
resides or takes refuge in one jurisdiction 
while he may be preying on another; (3) 
witnesses, leads, and evidence may be 
found in more than one jurisdiction; and 
(4) the general pooling of resources 
seems to be the only answer to fight 
against crime, smd with previous expan- 


ded cooperative functions this measure is 
a logical development. 


All of the jurisdictions of the Central 
Virginia Planning District, which are a 
party to this agreement, shall, through 
their local law enforcement agencies, 
participate in the formation and opera- 
tion of the Squad. However, where an 
arson case is a federal violation as well 
as a state violation, the use of the Squad 
will not be extended where such dual 
authority exists. 


To oversee the operation of the 
Squad, a Regional Arson Investigation 
Squad Advisory Committee (hereinafter 
referred to as "Committee") shall be 
established, which shall be composed of 
no more than thirteen (13) represen- 
tatives from the Central Virginia Plan- 
ning District. Seven (7) of the thirteen 
representatives shall be appointed by the 
Board of Commissioners of the Central 
Virginia Planning District Commission 
and shall consist of a Circuit Court 
Judge, a Commonwealth Attorney, a 
chief fire marshal, a representative from 
the Arson Investigation Division of the 
Virginia State Police, a representative 
from the volunteer fire departments, a 
representative from the business com- 
munity, and a representative from the 
insurance industry. 

The remaining six (6) representatives 
shall be the chief law enforcement offi- 
cials of each participating city and 


The members of the Committee shall 
elect, by majority vote of those members 
present. Committee officers from the 
Committee's internal membership. The 

Committee officers shall consist of a 
Chairman, Vice-Chairman and a Secre- 
tary, each of whom shall serve one year 
terms, or until a successor is elected. 


Membership of the Squad shall be 
comprised of selected representatives of 
the law enforcement agencies from the 
Central Virginia Planning District. 
Membership of the Squad shall consist of 
those law enforcement officers having 
experience and knowledge of criminal 
investigation techniques, ability to 
secure citizen cooperation, skill in report 
writing and willingness to function as a 
team member. Upon selection of Squad 
members a training school shall be 
established. Members of the Squad shall 
be trained so that each will be able to 
handle any facet of an arson inves- 
tigation. Classroom instruction shall be 
required. The Committee shall be re- 
sponsible for providing periodic refresher 
courses in order to keep the Squad 
abreast of recent developments in arson 


The Committee shall appoint perma- 
nent staff personnel with alternates as 
the nucleus of the Squad, such appoint- 
ments being for a one-year term. This 
nucleus of permanent staff personnel 
shall be responsible for proper handling 
of arson investigations and shall initially 
consist of the following positions: 

a. Personnel Officer ; The Per- 
sonnel Officer shall be respon- 
sible for maintaining records on 
all available law enforcement 
officers subject to assignment to 
the Squad and shall be respon- 
sible for obtaining suitable quar- 
ters to house the Squad when 

b. Equipment Officer ; The 
Equipment Officer shall be re- 

sponsible for the condition and 
availability of aU property and 
equipment which may be used 
when the Squad is operational. 

c. Report Officer : The Report 
Officer shall be responsible for 
receiving, editing, indexing, 
fiMng, summarizing and re- 
viewing all case reports and for 
supervising assigned clerical 
employees when the Squad is 

d. Evidence Officer ; The Evi- 
dence Officer shall be respon- 
sible for gathering, identifying 
and preserving aU physical evi- 
dence related to an arson case 
under investigation by the Squad. 

e. Investigative Supervisor ; The 
Investigative Supervisor shall 
serve as the chief assistant to 
the home agency's officer in 
charge of the arson case by tak- 
ing direct charge of the crime 
scene and aU foUow-up investi- 

f. Press Officer ; The Press Offi- 
cer shaU be responsible for all 
phases of news coverage con- 
cerning the arson case under 
investigation by the Squad as 
directed by the home agency's 
officer in charge. 

If reorganization of permanent staff 
personnel is required, such reorgani- 
zation may be placed into effect upon 
2/3 vote of the total membership of the 


Each law enforcement agency partic- 
ipating in the activities of the Squad 
shall designate an Officer-in-Charge who 
wiU be in full charge of the Squad when 
activated within his home jurisdiction. 
The Officer-in-Charge shall be the chief 

law enforcement officer of the agency or 
a duly designated member of his agen- 
cy. The decisions of the Officer-in- 
Charge shaU be considered absolute as if 
the order were to come from the Squad 
member's home agency Officer-in- 


If an arson case comes within the 
purview of the Squad, any member of a 
local law enforcement agency shall 
contact the duly designated Officer-in- 
Charge for that agency. The Officer-in- 
Charge shaU contact the Chairman of 
the Committee before placing the Squad 
into operation. In the absence of the 
Chairman, the Vice-Chairman of the 
Committee must be notified, or the 
Secretary of the Committee if the Vice- 
Chairman is not available. Under the 
terms of this agreement, the other 
agencies shall, upon request for acti- 
vating the Squad, send its duly desig- 
nated Squad members and equipment to 
the jurisdiction requesting Squad acti- 
vation. All Squad personnel of the re- 
questing agency shall be automatically 
assigned to duty. When a member juris- 
diction is notified of a request for Squad 
activation, the notified jurisdiction must 
immediately dispatch its Squad members 
to the requesting jurisdiction, even if in 
so doing, the notified jurisdiction must 
recaU some of its own men from their 
vacations or regular days off to keep 
adequate force for normal operations. In 
no event shall any jurisdiction be re- 
quired to send more than two men from 
its department for such duty for each 


If the member jurisdiction which was 
caUed upon to dispatch Squad members 
to another jurisdiction already has an 
emergency situation, either existing or 
impending, which will require emergency 
use of its fuU force on its home grounds. 


it must immediately notify the re- 
questing Officer-in-Charge that it can- 
not spare the Squad members, explaining 
the reason it cannot. Each such refusal 
will later be reviewed by the Committee 
in determining whether or not sound 
reasoning and cooperation were prac- 


No investigation by the Squad shall 
extend over a 5-day period except where 
unusual circumstances warrant an exten- 
sion. Any request for an extension shaU 
be referred to the Committee for final 


No local jurisdiction shall assert 
authority when none exists, and the 
Squad shall not operate at cross purposes 
with any existing agency. The requesting 
agency shall be in fuU charge of any 
investigation arising from its juris- 
diction. This accountability cannot be 
delegated to a Squad member by the 
requesting agency without the approval 
of the Chairman of the Committee, and 
such approval, if granted, shall be in 
writing and a copy given the Squad mem- 
ber assuming such accountability. 


If a Squad member is assigned to an 
arson investigation under the provisions 
of this agreement, he may request his 
home jurisdiction to recall him for one or 
more of the following reasons: 

a. In case some serious family prob- 
lems need his personal attention 
at home. 

b. In case he becomes ill enough to 
need the attention of the family 

c. In case he has made prior duty 

commitments which he wiU 
otherwise be unable to fulfill due 
to an extension of his Squad 
assignment beyond the author- 
ized time of performance. 

d. In case some situation develops 
after his reporting for duty 
which he feels is placing him 
and/or his department in an 
embarrassing situation or which 
is contrary to the standards of 
law enforcement ethics em- 
braced by his own department or 
the Squad. 

In such cases the assigned Squad member 
will continue to perform his duties until 
he receives a decision on his request 
from his home agency. 



The requesting jurisdiction shall be 
responsible for replacing any expended 
consumable supplies borrowed from 
another jurisdiction and wiU repair any 
damage occurring to borrowed equipment 
as a result of its use. The Squad member 
however, will be jointly responsible with 
his own agency for maintenance of his 
personal equipment and of any govern- 
ment vehicle or additional government 
items brought for his own use while serv- 
ing his assignment. Requesting juris- 
dictions will not be responsible for 
damage to vehicles on loan where the 
accident was clearly the fault of the 
driver of such vehicle from the same 
department. However, the requesting 
jurisdiction assumes only such liability 
for duty actions of the Squad members as 
may be determined under general law for 
damages to property or person commit- 
ted while performing his duty in a rea- 
sonable and prudent manner in accor- 
dance with orders or directions given him 
by the proper authority of the requesting 



Each agency will continue to provide 
its men on assignment in a foreign 
jurisdiction with the same employment 
benefits they are furnished when on duty 
at home (Virginia Code 15.1 - 131.3). 
The requesting agency will not be 
required to assume or reimburse the cost 
of insurance on law enforcement person- 
nel from other jurisdictions assigned to 
the Squad or on any necessary equipment 
those men might bring to their assign- 
ment. It is the responsibility of each 
jurisdiction to have liability insurance on 
its law enforcement employees, and shall 
maintain that coverage when its officers 
are caUed to another territory included 
in this agreement. 



Any one of the parties hereto may 
withdraw from this agreement by the 
adoption of a resolution providing for 
such withdrawal and this agreement shall 
remain in full force and effect between 
the remaining parties to this agreement 
until all parties hereto have withdrawn 
and terminated this agreement by the 
adoption of appropriate resolutions. 


The terms of this agreement shall be 
unlimited except for withdrawal of any 
one of the parties hereto as indicated in 
Paragraph 15 above. 



If at any time any provision, para- 
graph, clause, or word shall be held inva- 
lid, the remainder of the provisions, 
paragraphs, clauses, or words, other than 
that which has been held invalid, shall 
not be affected thereby. 




Should it become necessary to modify 
any part of this agreement, such 
modification shall be incorporated in 

written amendments to this agreeent 
after they are mutually agreed upon 
unanimously by the participating mem- 



City Manager 






Chairman of Board of Supervisors 

Chairman of Board of Supervisors 





Chairman of Board of Supervisors 

Chairman of Board of Supervisors 

Town Mayor 


Town Mayor 



Town Mayor 



Town Mayor 


E. County Arson Task Force — 
New York's Suffolk County 
Arson Task Force 

the fire chief or the fire inspector. 
Without any doubt, these procedures 
have resulted in a far greater number of 
fires being investigated and found to be 
arsons, as well as an increase in the 
number of arrests. 


The experience of the Suffolk County 
Arson Task Force is proving that arson in 
rural areas can be successfully 
attacked. To achieve success, it has 
required a dedicated volunteer fire- 
fighting service throughout the 10 town- 
ships of Suffolk County. It also requires 
a well-staffed, well-trained and well- 
equipped police arson squad. It requires 
an active district attorney's office de- 
termined to prosecute to the full extent 
of the law those arrested and indicted 
for arson. It requires a supportive coun- 
ty government committed to the reduc- 
tion of arson. Most of all, it requires 
cooperation and a harmonious spirit 
among all the parties involved. 

Such cooperation has been achieved by 
the establishment of the Suffolk County 
Arson Task Force and its advisory body, 
the 50-member Arson Action Commit- 
tee. Created in January 1978, the Arson 
Action Committee meets on a monthly 
basis. It has succeeded in bringing toge- 
ther the Chief Deputy Suffolk County 
Executive, members of the Criminal 
Justice Coordinating Council, the Dis- 
trict Attorney's Office, representatives 
of the local police, the Bureau of Alco- 
hol, Tobacco and Firearms, 20 volunteer 
fire chiefs, one fire inspector from each 
township and volunteer firefighters from 
throughout the county. It has proven to 
be a promising forum to work out differ- 
ences and to develop and implement 
ideas that lead toward the common goal 
of arson suppression. 

A major accomplishment of this Com- 
mittee has been the implementation of a 
set of procedures to ensure that the site 
of a suspicious fire is properly secured 
and that the arson squad is contacted by 

As part of the Arson Task Force effort 
during the first year of project opera- 
tion, the Suffolk County Police Depart- 
ment expanded its arson squad to one 
detective lieutenant, two detective ser- 
geants, and 12 full-time investigators. 
The unit was made available on a 24 
hour-a-day, seven day-a-week basis for 
immediate fire scene response and was 
given complete responsitaility for the 
investigation and evidence gathering 
necessary to lead to the arrest of suspec- 
ted arsonists. 

Arson investigation requires the utili- 
zation of specific scientific equipment to 
detect the crime of arson and to gather 
confirming evidence. Suffolk's Arson 
Task Force received a grant from LEAA, 
providing the arson squad with essential 
investigative equipment. Among the 
equipment supplied was a mobile crime 
van with detection gear that shortens the 
arson squad response time to suspicious 
fires anywhere in the county. Further, 
arson detection systems (sniffers) have 
enabled the arson squad investigators to 
verify the presence of flammable sub- 
stances on remaining residues at the 
burned structure. 

All the equipment and manpower, of 
course, would be meaningless if those 
responsible for conducting arson investi- 
gations are not sufficiently trained. The 
Suffolk County Arson Task Force initia- 
ted a training program to provide its 
arson squad with instruction in the latest 
methods and equipment for arson detec- 
tion and investigation. 

In Suffolk County, the volunteer fire- 
fighter plays a critical role in the anti- 
arson efforts. It is recognized that he is 

in a position to make the initial assess- 
ment that the fire is of suspicious ori- 
gin. From this point on, the firefighter's 
action at the fire scene can make or 
break prosecution efforts. 

He is being trained to maintain the 
integrity of the fire scene until the arson 
investigator arrives, since the prosecu- 
tion of arson hinges on the arson investi- 
gator's "fire scene determination." The 
failure of the firefighter to secure the 
area or to await police securement and 
to follow prescribed procedures regard- 
ing reporting and notification require- 
ments subjects the entire case to failure 
from the onset. Such training has been 
provided not only to the 16,000 volunteer 
firefighters in Suffolk County's 110 fire 
departments but also to several thousand 
more volunteers on Long Island. 

The Arson Action Committee of Suffolk 
County meets on a monthly basis at the 
County's Firematic Training Center, 
Yaphank, Long Island. A decrease in 
hostilities and "turf protection" between 
the police arson squad and the volunteer 
fire service has been a graphic result of 
these meetings. Old and new grievances 
between the two arson fighting groups 
have been aired and thrashed out. Fire 
chiefs call the police arson squad in for 
formal investigations of fires on an 
almost routine basis. 

One of the simple accomplishments of 
this Arson Action Committee was the 
formulation of priority numbers, listed 
on wallet-size cards, for varying kinds of 
fires. These cards set the following 
priorities for use by fire officials to 
summon the police arson squad. 


Structural fire or 

motor vehicle fire 

involving death or 
serious injury 

Occupied commercial 

3 - Occupied dwelling 

4 - Vacant commercial 


5 - Vacant dwelling 

6 - Motor vehicle fire 

The Suffolk County Arson Task Force is 
beginning its second year. A dynamic 
program of action has been planned: 
Arson training seminars are being 

featured for members of the district 
attorney's office, police, volunteer 
firefighters, and seQaried fire inspectors 
from each of the 10 Suffolk County 
townships. A speaker's bureau is being 
planned in the areas of fire safety/ 
prevention and the problem of arson. A 
media effort win include issuance of 
arson bumper stickers and frequent 
"news releases," the latter pertaining to 
major arson convictions. The insurance 
industry is being asked to display arson 
fact sheet posters in the windows of 
their branch offices. These will contain 
data (updated periodically) concerning 
the number of incidences of arson during 
the year and contain the warnings that 
aU suspicious fires have been and will be 
investigated and that payment of claims 
on any questionable fires will be withheld 
until a complete investigation has been 
conducted. In order to elicit the support 
of school children in this crusade and 
reduce their possible involvement in this 
type of action, an arson curriculum is to 
be developed and introduced. A newly 
instituted "Arson Hotline" to report sus- 
picious fires has also been created. Fi- 
nally, an arson reward committee, sup- 
ported totally by private insurance 
monies is to be formed to award amounts 
up to $5,000 to any person or persons 
who provide information leading to the 
arrest and subsequent conviction of an 

All these measures are being forcefully 
pursued and implemented with the 
objective of reducing the crime of arson 
in Suffolk County. 

More information can be obtained from: or 

David Fischler, Deputy Director Fire Safety Officer 

Department of Fire Safety John Cohn 

Countv of Suffolk Suffoli< County Dep't of Fire Safety 

P.O. Box 85 P.O. Box 85 

Yaphank, NY 11980 Yaphank, NY 11980 

(516)286-5358 (516)286-5341 



F. Anti-Arson Materials 

Available from the Insurance 

Insurance Committee for Arson Control 

The committee publishes an Arson Con- 
trol Directory, How and Why, Who, What, 
Where which is available for $15.00. 
This reference serves as a medium of 
information exchange among key people 
in the public and private sectors who are 
concerned with arson control. Part 1 of 
this directory contains basic information 
such as how to establish a local arson 
task force, plus general background on 
national organizations, including the 
Insurance Committee for Arson Con- 
trol. Part 2 is a state-by-state directory 
of arson control organizations. Part 3 
contains sample speech texts on arson 
and a copy of the insurance industry 
report, Target; Arson . This directory is 
updated regularly. 

Contact: Charles Stonehill 

Secretary, Insurance 

Committee for Arson 

20 North Wacker Drive, 
Suite 2140 
Chicago, IL 60606 
(312) 558-3800 

Aetna Life & Casualty 

Aetna has two packets available to the 

1. The company's Community Arson 
Awareness Program (CAAP) is a five- 
piece anti-arson kit designed for use by 
community groups and other organi- 
zations concerned with safeguarding 
their neighborhoods. The kit includes 
sample materials including a brochure, 
posters and business cards. 

Contact: Phyllis Shafer 

Corporate Communica- 
tions (D-A) 
Aetna Life & Casualty 
151 Farmington Avenue 
Hartford, CT 06156 
(203) 273-3282 

2. Aetna also distributes a 15-minute 
film, "Winning the War on Arson," which 
highlights the Seattle Arson Task Force 
and New Haven's Early Warning System. 
The film, with background materials and 
brochures, is available from the film 
librarian at Aetna. 

Alliance of American Insurers 

The Alliance has assembled an Arson 
Information Kit, consisting of a series of 
educational materials on arson. The kit 
includes a series of fact sheets, bro- 
chures and articles which present arson 
statistics, an explanation of the reclassi- 
fication of arson as a Part I crime, a 
copy of the Model Arson Penal Law and 
the Model Arson Reporting Immunity 
Law, and guidelines on how to establish 
an arson award program and an arson 
task force. 

Contact: Lawrence C. Christopher 
Vice President, 

Alliance of American 

20 North Wacker Drive 
Chicago, IL 60606 
(312) 558-3738 

Allstate Insurance Company 

Allstate has published a community 
action guide. Put the Heat on the Arson- 
ists , which offers details on organizing a 
community anti-arson program, including 
sources for additional information and 
free materials. Allstate will provide 
community programs with pamphlets and 
fact sheets for envelope stuffers and a 
slide presentation for speakers which 
provide background material and visuals 
for media interviews and public dis- 
plays. AUstate C£in also arrange a loan 
of Fire Information Field Investigation 
(FIFI) training kits for fire departments. 

Contact: Ralph Jackson 

Loss Prevention Manager 
AUstate Insurance Company 
AUstate Plaza - F-3 
Northbrook, IL 60062 
(312) 291-5089 


Factory Mutual System 

The Factory Mutual System's Committee 
Against Incendiarism publishes a pocket 
guide to arson investigation which in- 
cludes information on the various stages 
of an alarm from the initial report 
through extinguishment, overhaul and 
physical evidence collection. Copies of 
the guide are available for $1.00 each. 

Contact: Order Processing 

Factory Mutual 

1151 Boston-Providence 

Norwood, MA 02062 
(617) 762-4300, ext. 209 

Foremost Insurance Company 

Foremost Insurance Company offers a 
$2,000 reward program for information 
regarding mobile home arson. This re- 
ward program is part of its "Fire Hurts" 
program which includes brochures and 
announcements about the program. 

Contact: Colleen Fenrich 

Public Relations Manager 
Foremost Insurance 

5800 Foremost Drive, SW 
P.O. Box 2450 
Grand Rapids, MI 49501 
(616) 942-3331 

Hartford Insurance Company 

The Hartford Insurance Company has 
produced for the U.S. Fire Admini- 
stration an arson Media Guidebook to be 
used by local and state arson task for- 
ces. The guidebook covers "how-to" 
information on preparing media cam- 
paigns for arson prevention and control. 
It includes suggestions on how to write 
news releases, public service announce- 
ments, radio and TV scripts, how to 
conduct press conferences and how to 
evaluate media campaigns. 

Contact: Office of Fire Protection 

U.S. Fire Administration 
Federal Emergency 

Management Agency 
Washington, D.C. 20472 

(202) 287-0770 

Insurance Crime Prevention Institute 

The Insurance Crime Prevention Institute 
publishes a handbook which includes an 
arson-for-profit chapter and has avail- 
able a training film, "Anatomy of an 
Arson," which covers the cause and ori- 
gin of a set fire. 

Contact: Public Relations 

Insurance Crime 

Prevention Institute 

15 Franklin Street 
Westport, CT 06880 

(203) 266-6347 

Industrial Risk Insurers 

IRI publishes a pamphlet, "Arson Alert," 
which is available to the public. It dis- 
cusses how to protect property against 

Contact: Communications 

Industrial Risk Insurers 

85 Woodland Street 
Hartford, CT 06102 
(203) 525-2601 

Professional Insurance Agents 

The Professional Insurance Agents (PIA) 
publishes an arson awareness program 
entitled "Be Concerned. ..Don't Get 
Burned" in association with the Interna- 
tional Association of Fire Chiefs. The 
booklet is free to the public. A complete 
information kit which includes public 
service announcements, posters and 
speeches is available to agents. 

Contact: Dennis Jay 

Professional Insurance 

Agents (PIA) 
400 North Washington St. 
Alexandria, VA 22314 
(703) 836-9340 

State Farm Fire and Casualty Company 

State Farm has produced three anti- 
arson booklets available to the public: 

"Touched Off by Human Hands" (for 

"Iceberg Crime" (for police officers) 

"Verdict: Guilty of Burning" (for pro- 

Contact: David Hurst 

Public Relations 

State Farm Insurance 

One State Farm Plaza 
Bloomington, IL 61701 
(309) 662-2845 



G. Materials Available from 
FEMA, USFA Office of Fire 
Protection Management 

Mission: To serve as a national arson 
reference center, providing infor- 
mation to states and localities to help 
them prevent and control arson. 

Sr'^xjific Objectives: 

1. To develop an extensive infor- 
mational resource on every 
aspect of arson, containing the 
timeliest literature, audio/ 
visuals, and materials, related to 
model arson prevention and 
control programs, training and 
arson legislation. 

2. To identify users and their re- 
quirements for funneling needed 
information to help reduce the 
Nation's arson problem. 

3. To serve as a reference center 
and clearinghouse to states and 
localities on arson programs, 
training, legislation and re- 

4. To develop and maintain an arson 
resource directory on persons, 
organizations and materials. 

5. To publish an Arson Resource 
Exchange Bulletin , providing a 
current awareness of programs, 
resources, problems, trends, and 

6. To respond to queries or provide 
reference sources of expertise 
where answers to arson problems 
may be found. 

7. To develop and disseminate 
manuals and information pack- 
ages to help states and localities 
prevent and control arson. 

Publication§ Available from The 
Office of Fire Protection Management 

Overview, Report to the Congress 
Arson; The Federal Role in Arson 
Prevention and Control 

Arson Resource Directory 

Arson Resource Exchange Bulletin 

Arson Task Force Assistance Program 

Arson News Media Guidebook 

Interviewing and Counseling Juvenile 

Fire Insurance; Its Nature and Dyna- 

Report on the Information Manage- 
ment System Conference Airlie, Vir- 
ginia, May 3-5, 1975 

Arson; America's Malignant Crime 

F<^ Information on: 

Arson Task Forces 

Arson Investigation/Prosecution 


Preservation of Historic Sites 

from Arson 

Juvenile Firesetters Counseling 


Arson Information Management 


Call or write the Arson Resource Center 
which wiU provide either the infor- 
mation/publication answering your ques- 
tions or refer you to the appropriate 
resource who can. 

Office of Fire Protection 

U.S. Fire Administration 
Federal Emergency 

Management Agency 
Washington, D.C. 20472 
(202) 287-0770 

H. Suggested Items for a Fire 
Investigation Kit 


Graph Paper 

Fuse Pullers 


Notebook Pad 


Wire Ties 

Screwdriver - Slot & Phillips 

Scraper - Large &: Small Putty Knife 

Mason Jars 

Measuring Wheel 



Garden Trowel 

12' and 50' Tapes 

Circuit Tester 

Syringes - Large &: Small 


Plaster of Paris 

ID Tags - Use Police Department's 

Plastic Garbage Bags 

Pocl<et Knife 


Saran Wraps 



Rope - 2 Lengths 50' Each 

Pencils - Colored 

Heavy String 


Pill Bottles 


Magnifying Glass 

Coal Shovel 

Waterless Hand Cleaner 

4x4 Pieces of Glass (2) 

Miscellaneous Small Tools 

Forms for Reports 

Hack Saw 

Legal Size Clipboard 

Short Handle Flat Nose Shovel 

Masking Tape 1" 

Hardware Screen 3' x 3' 

Outlet Polarity Tester 


Felt Pen 

No Trespassing Signs 

Pencils - Pens 

Set of AUen Wrenches 

Flashlight - Extra Batteries 

Paper Tarps - 6 


Hard Hat 

Foam Rubber 

Gas Meter Locks 

2" Paint Brush 

Film & Flashcubes 


Surgical Gloves 

Arson Reward Signs 

Clean Paint Cans (1/2 pt., 1 pt., 1 qt.) 

I. FEMA Regional Offices 


Regional Fire Representative 

FEMA Region I 

442 J.W. McCormack 

Boston, MA 02109 



Regional Fire Representative 

FEMA Region II 

26 Federal Plaza, RM 1349 

New York, NY 10007 



Regional Fire Representative 
FEMA Region III 
Curtis Bldg. 7th Floor 
6th and Walnut Streets 
Philadelphia, PA 19106 


Regional Fire Representative 

FEMA Region IV 

Gulf Oil Building, Suite 664 

1375 Peachtree Street, N.E. 

Atlanta, GA 30309 



Regional Fire Representative 

FBIA Region V 

300 South Wacker Drive 

24th Floor 

Chicago, IL 60606 



Regional Fire Representative 

FEMA Region VI 

Federal Regional Center, RM 206 

Denton, TX^ 76201 



Regional Fire Representative 

FEMA Region VII 

Old Federal Office Bldg. , RM 300 

Kansas City, MO 64106 



Regional Fire Representative 

FB1A Region VIII 

Federal Regional Center, Bldg. 

Denver, CO 80225 



Regional Fire Representative 

FEMA Region IX 

211 Main Street, RM 220 

San Francisco, CA 94105 



Regional Fire Representative 

FEMA Region X 

Federal Regional Center 

Bothell, m 98011 




GPO 89 1-775